Toki Pona/Morphological typology

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Morphological Typology[edit | edit source]

toki pona is an isolation language. The morphological processes are limited to possible clitics. No content words inflect.

"A bound morpheme is a morpheme that must be attached to some other morpheme to be integrated naturally into a discourse." 1997 Payne

Bound Morphemes[edit | edit source]

The following words cannot stand alone:

  • pi – a variety of meanings, including "of", "has", or a logical grouping operator
  • e – accusative clitic
  • li – verb phrase marker
  • lon, sama, kepeken, tan, tawa – These are the prepositions.

"A clitic is bound morpheme that functions at a phrasal or clausal level, but which binds phonologically to some other word, known as the host." 1997 Payne

More bound clitics[edit | edit source]

The particles pi, e and the prepositions are clitics that consistently have the same host. The pi always precedes a noun and no other word can go between the pi and the noun without changing the sense of the phrase. This is also true for prepositions. The pi and propositions apply to the entire following phrase.

How bound is pi? One test is to examine how pi reacts to conjunctions.

mi lukin e soweli pi ma Sonko

I saw the Chinese animals.

? mi lukin e soweli pi telo en ma. ? mi lukin e soweli pi ma en telo. I saw the animal of the land and sea.

The specs to date do not make it clear if conjuncted modifiers or pi-complements are legal.

How bound is e? en doesn't move e from its head noun, but anu does. mi lukin e soweli anu waso. mi lukin e waso anu soweli.

Less bound clitics- Grammatical Particles[edit | edit source]

Auxiliary or serial verbs may go between li and the head verb. li marks the beginning of a verb phrase that continues until the e or first preposition.

Depending on how you parse the phrases with compound prepositions (lon + geographic word), lon can be split from its head noun.

soweli li lape lon anpa supa. The animal sleeps under the bed.

Periphrasal Patterns[edit | edit source]

Because toki pona is strongly isolating, the equivalent of derivational operations do not involve binding morphemes. This doesn't mean that these processes don't exist, but instead they are clausal or discourse level operations.

There isn't any bound infixation, but at the phrasal level, plural markers can be inserted in the middle of the phrase.

tomo pi telo nasa / tomo mute pi telo nasa: house(s) of strange water/houses of strange water

jan pona / jan pona mute ? jan mute pona: good person(s)/good people

Stems or base words are never modified. Reduplication has no special meaning.

Note that singularity or plurality is not the default. "tomo" can both mean one building or multiple buildings.

Head/Dependent Marking[edit | edit source]

It isn't clear if the head or the dependents are being marked.

lipu jan The man's book.

lipu mute jan The man's books.

lipu mute pi jan mute The people's books.