What is Toki Pona?
From Toki Pona
Latest news (updated December 17, 2012)
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What is Toki Pona? (old page)
A simple language
Toki Pona is a simple language designed to express the most, using the least. The entire language has only 123 words and 14 sounds. The grammar, although different from English, is very regular and easy to learn.
Universal building blocks
Historically, when people from different cultures came into contact, one approach to find common ground and share ideas was to develop a basic pidgin language.
Toki Pona continues in this tradition, focusing on universal elements of human life: person, food, water, good, give, sleep, etc. Toki Pona eliminates all more advanced concepts that are not necessary for basic survival and communication.
To form a more complex meaning, you can easily combine more basic words.
The name toki pona itself means "good language" or "simple language".
Philosophy of pona
Toki Pona's most fundamental value is pona or good, which goes hand in hand with the simple way of life behind the language. The language is designed to steer us towards positive and constructive thinking. Many expressions celebrate and focus on this good:
|pona||good, great, cool, thanks|
|suno pona||good sun, good day|
|lape pona||good sleep, good night, sweet dreams|
|ale li pona||all is well, life is good, it's all good, everything will be OK|
|moku pona||good food, bon appétit, enjoy your meal|
|tawa pona||good going, good bye, have a good trip, farewell|
|mute pona||good amount, enough|
|ante pona||to change in a good way, adapt|
Living in the now
Since Toki Pona reduces communication to its most basic units, Toki Pona words are often vague and can have many different translations in English. The word toki, for example, can mean talk, speak, say, communication or language. Of course all these concepts go back to the same fundamental idea, and that is why they are united under one Toki Pona word.
Because of this, as a speaker, you rely a lot on context to interpret what is going on. You become connected to the world around you. Instead of detaching yourself from the direct experience of life with abstract and complex concepts, you learn to listen to people and directly connect to your surroundings.
Toki Pona is also an introspective language, in that many idioms focus on the self. For example, a statement like sina pona, literally "you are good", always recognizes the speaker's values first, i.e. "In my experience, you are good." or in plain English "I like you".
Meaning of life
A lot of life wisdom has been "built into" Toki Pona. Training your mind to think in Toki Pona can lead to many deeper insights about yourself or the world around you. In our modern times, we seem to make life so complicated, and it is easy to lose touch with our basic origins. Indeed, they say that most of life's problems we create ourselves, e.g. in our frenetic and always accelerating quest for "progress". When you break down a complex situation to its fundamental Toki Pona words, it can often become more clear, and you can check if are in a good direction.
Take for example the concept of a "bad friend". The Toki Pona word for friend is jan pona, or literally "good person". You quickly realize that a bad friend is a contradiction in itself. If this person is truly bad to you, perhaps it is time to help him come back to a positive and constructive life path, or maybe it is time to let go of this negative person in your life.
A classic example of this can be seen when translating to plain English the doublespeak that large organizations use to manipulate and dehumanize people:
|"downsizing"||mass firing of employees|
|"collateral damage"||killing of civilians|
|"pre-emptive war"||invasion of a foreign country|
Toki Pona eliminates this excess jargon or fluff and instead points to the centre and nature of things. It can become a sort of "yoga for the mind". Instead of getting caught in negative thoughts and anxiety, you learn to relax, meditate and explore your relationship to life itself. Many of these principles were inspired by Taoism, which values a simple, honest life and non-interference with the natural flow of things, as well as other spiritual paths.