Toki Pona/Grammatical categories

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Nouns[edit | edit source]

Nouns are nouns primarily on account of where they appear in a sentence. Almost any content word can be used as a noun.

Individual nouns exhibit no internal structure. All noun operations with analogies in other languages are done at the noun phrase level.

The noun phrases has the following basic structure.

noun modifier possessor pi noun phrase

The following words are the pronouns

mi, sina These pronouns are worth considering separately because their meaning is resolved by context and doesn't refer to anything mentioned earlier. Both of these nouns at times take modifiers, usually mute, tu, or rarely suli.

ona This pronoun can be anaphora for anything mentioned, to be mentioned or in context. Unlike languages like Chinese, which use a similar pronoun, this word can't be dropped entirely. In Chinese, when the subject of the anaphora is clear, not only does the gender and number not need to be mentioned, the pronoun doesn't need to be mentioned. In toki pona, subject can never be dropped and objects usually are not dropped.

ona sometimes takes modifiers, usually mije, meli, mute

ni This is usually translated as "this" and is supposed to indicate the anaphora used when pointing, say with a finger. Because toki pona is almost never used in face to face situations, the word is used much the same as ona, except that ni can refer to an entire sentence, where as ona can't and primarily refers to a noun phrase.

  • * li lukin. It is always wrong to drop a subject.
  • ? jan li lukin. The man sees (something). This may be wrong if the speaker meant a transitive sense of the word.
  • jan li lukin e ijo. The man sees something. This is always correct.

Repeated Head Nouns When a head noun is repeated, it refers back to an earlier mention. These anaphora strategy can create ambiguity if it isn't clear that the repeated head noun is the same or a new player on the stage.

waso pi tawa wawa li lon ma Oselija. waso li suli li ken tawa ala kon. The emu is in Australia. It is large and flightless.

Verbs[edit | edit source]

The verb phrase appears immediately after the li in a sentence.

Verbs have no internal structure. All verb processes are dealt with at the phrase level.

Verbs are intransitive, transitive, prepositional, and those that take unmarked complements. All verbs can increase their valence by adding prepositional phrases.

Intransitive. jan li suli. The man is making things big. | The man is big.

Transitive. jan li suli e kasi. The man is making plants big.

Predicative Prepositions of Motion. Most predicate constructions convey a static situation. The tawa prepositional phrase conveys a sense of motion.

  • jan li tawa ma ante. The man went to another country.

Prepositional. When prepositional phrases are used with a direct object complement, usually with tawa or lon, their meaning changes to mean move and place/affix respectively.

  • jan li tawa e soweli tawa ma ante. The man moves the animal to a different country.
  • jan li lon e ilo musi lon kasi kiwen anpa. The man places toys under the tree.

Verbs Taking Unmarked Complements The verb of talking are the most likely to be used this way, although it is more common that the complement be treated as a direct object.

  • mi toki pi pali mi. I speak about my work.
  • (more commonly) mi toki e pali mi

Serial/Auxiliary Verbs jan li ken pali. The man can work.

  • see mood for more on this

Serial verbs go between li and the head verb.

Verb Operations[edit | edit source]

Verb operations are entirely done at the lexical or periphrastic level.

verb agreement/concord. The verb phrase does not change to agree with the subject.

  • jan li pali. The man works.
  • jan mute li pali. The men work.
  • jan mute li pali mute. The men work a lot.
  • jan mute li pali mute e tomo. The men work on the houses a lot.

semantic role markers/applicatives. N/A ?

valence increasing devices. Valence can be increase by complementing a verb phrase with an unmarked noun phrase, a direct object or a prepositional phrase. The only thing barring a verb from taking a direct object or any of the prepositional phrases is deciding what those sentences might mean. Unmarked noun phrases are rare.

valence decreasing devices. Subjects are always obligatory. The direct object might be obligatory, it isn't clear yet.

  • 1) mi moli. I die.
  • 2) mi moli e jan. I kill someone.

It isn't clear if sentence 1) can mean "I kill someone"

Reflexive and reciprocals can't dispense with the direct object. It can be replaced with "sama" as anaphora.

  • jan li lukin e sama. The man saw himself.
  • meli en mije li lukin e sama. The man and the women saw each other.

tense/aspect/mode Tense is handled with la fragments, which are noun phrases followed by la, using the words pini, kama, ni for past, future and now respectively. The la fragment can also use a characteristic activity or quality of such a time to mark the time or tense.

tenpo ni la jan li pali. Now the men are working. tenpo pali la jan li pali ala. The men weren't working during their normal hours of work.

aspect is sometimes expressed through modifiers to the main verb.

? jan li pali pini e pali ona. The man completed his work.

mood is usually expressed through auxiliary verbs which precede the main verb.

  • jan li ken pali. The man can work.
  • jan li wile pali. The man wants to work.
  • jan li lukin pali. The man tries to work.

mood, in some cases, can be expressed with adverbs which go after the verb.

  • jan li lape ken. The man might sleep.

subordination/nominalization By placing a prototypical verb in a noun phrase, it means "such activity." or the English "ing." There are some set phrases with the prototypical object as a modifier compliment. There are also set phrases with a noun and a prototypical verb in modifier position.

  • pana sona - teaching "giving knowledge"
  • pana pi sona nasa - teaching weird stuff "giving weird knowledge"
  • in a full sentence: olin soweli li pona - loving animals is good.

verb negation Verbs are negated by placing ala after the verb.

Amounts and Numbers[edit | edit source]

There are many competing number systems, none of which are in wide usage. There are a few official ones The most common is 0/1/2/5/20/100:

  • ala - 0
  • wan - 1
  • tu - 2
  • luka - 5
  • mute - 20
  • ale | ali - 100

There are also a couple of approximant amounts. These are extremely common and appear more often than specific numbers.

  • lili - few, little, not many
  • mute - many, multiple, several
  • ale | ali - all, every, whole; bountiful, plentiful

Adverbs[edit | edit source]

Adverbs are rarely used. The most common are suli, lili, wawa, mute, ken, and ala. Adverbs go directly after the verb.

jan li pali wawa. The man built fast. jan li pali wawa e tomo. The man built the house fast.

Instead of putting the adverb right after the verb. You can put it at the beginning followed by the word, "la."

wawa la mi tawa. quickly, I moved. ken la mi lape. possibly, I will sleep.

La[edit | edit source]