Toki Pona/Constituent order typology

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Toki Pona is an SVO, nominative-accusative language. There are no signs of ergativity of any sort. It is a rigid constituent order language that leaves very few phrases free with respect to word order.

Noun Phrase[edit | edit source]

Modifiers can be arranged in any order, but the order is significant. Later modifiers affect the whole preceding phrase.

Modifier Order sometimes doesn't significantly affect meaning.

  • 1) soweli suli wawa - a powerful large animal (a large animal that is also powerful)
  • 2) soweli wawa suli - a large powerful animal (a powerful animal that is also large)

Adpositional Phrases[edit | edit source]

Toki Pona has prepositions. They are closer to clitics or cases because they attach before the head noun and nothing else can go between the preposition and the head noun.

Comparatives[edit | edit source]

Toki Pona uses discourse to express comparatives. It doesn't have a construction that easily matches the standard-marker-quality pattern found in some languages.

soweli li suli mute. waso li suli lili. The animal is very large. The bird is 'small-ly' large. I.e., The animal is larger than the bird.

Question particles and question words[edit | edit source]

Yes/no questions are asked using the V-ala-V pattern.

  • jan li moli ala moli e jan utala? Did the man kill the soldier?
  • jan li suli ala suli? Is the man great?

seme is the question word and it appears where the unknown piece of information would appear.

  • 1) seme li moli e jan? Who killed the man?
  • 2) jan li moli e seme? The man killed who?
  • 3) jan li moli seme e jan? How did the man kill the other?
  • 4) ? jan li seme e jan? What did he do to the other man?
  • 5) tenpo seme la jan li moli e jan? When did the man kill the other?
  • 6) jan li moli e jan kepeken seme? What did the man kill the other with?

There is no obvious pattern in predicate sentences.

  • 1) jan li seme?
  • 2) seme li jan?

Greenberg's Parameters[edit | edit source]

  1. Main clause V-O
  2. adpositions prepositions
  3. genitive and head noun - N-G
  4. head noun and modifier N-M
  5. relative clauses and head noun- Not entirely applicable, but the sentence with the head noun is first and is followed by the sentence that describes the other noun. jan li lukin e ni: jan li pali.
  6. comparatives- Not applicable
  7. Inflected Auxiliary- not entirely applicable, but Aux-V
  8. Question particles- No question particle.
  9. Question words- Not sure.
  10. affixes - Not entirely applicable, but clitics precede their phrases.

So with few exceptions in the cases where Toki Pona doesn't have the exact same sort of construction, Toki Pona fits the patterns of Greenburg's parameters.