Tuesday, May 24, 2016

FAQ 8 How does toki pona deal with large quantities?

Short answer: use 'mute'.  You can expand to 'mute mute' or 'mute suli'  but you don't need to. except maybe for comparisons.

Much longer answer:
Basic toki pona has two numbers, 'wan' and 'tu', from English.  Early on, it has two more, 'tuli' and 'po', also from English.  These were dropped very early, presumably as unneeded. It is not clear why the Daoist advice, "stop off at One," was not heeded, giving just 'ala'. 'wan' and 'mute' for quantities.  But 'tu' remains and anything larger than that is strictly 'mute'.

But, against one sort of toki pona philosophy, people would notice and be concerned with details: four is more than three and five more than either, not differences to be lost in 'mute'.  So toki pona came to allow strings of numbers which together made new numbers.  In particular, 'tu's could be strung out, with a 'wan' at the end for odd numbers, to designate the sum of the string: 'tu wan' 3, 'tu tu' 4, 'tu tu wan' 5, and so on.  In print, this technique can eventually represent any number, of course, but practically, and especially in spoken language, the intelligible limit, under the best circumstances, is 14 (max 5+/- 2 'tu's), not enough for a toki poner to give their age, even.

As a result, in this already suspect idiom, larger units were adopted.  The first, from very early, was 'luka' (relevantly "hand") for 5.  This usage is totally standard, tough officially deprecated occasionally.  In the construction of new numbers, the 'luka's come before the 'tu's, with the lone 'wan' still at the end, if at all (but no longer uniformly marking odd numbers). This extends the reasonable numbers to 35, though 33 and 34, don't quite make the limit.   This covers most toki poner's ages now, probably, but leaves little room for growth or geezers.

Aside from its historical allusions, the choice of 'luka' was wise, since 'luka', as "foreleg, hand"  would never in the normal run of conversation appear in a place where numbers do. Thus, no ambiguities were added in effect.  But the proposed solution to the limits of the 'luka' system, adding 'mute' 20 and 'ale' 100, immediately adds ambiguities -- and ones context often cannot readily break, since both these words are already quantity expressions, going exactly where numbers might also go.  But, in fact, they generally occur as numbers in strings of numbers, where "all" and "many" would not go, so the effect is actually rather minor.  These additions bring reasonable numbers up to 140 and then 700, now with several gaps in each case.  The order is still from largest to smallest: 'ale mute luka tu wan'.  This is as far as official or even generally agreed expressions go.

So, here speculation begins -- and has been going on since 'luka's earliest days.  One can, of course, keep proposing new words for ever larger quantities ('pipi' for 1,000, 'kala' for '10,000 or 1,000,000, say).  But the results are always unsatisfying and, in particular, clunky, according to the speculators.  The problem is generally conceded (by those involved) to be that additive increases make for too long expressions in general.  The internal structure of number strings needs to be opened up.

The first obvious suggestion is to bring multiplication in.  It gets bigger numbers faster and yet is still familiar enough to not require a lot of calculation at each step. Just how to bring multiplication in has led to several ingenious schemes.  One can, for example, take numbers out of their canonical order to mark a product: so 'luka tu' is 7 (canonical, additive), but 'tu luka' is 10.  Or one can move the additive features over to 'en' and use standard modification for multiplication: 'luka en tu' is 7, but 'luka tu'  is 10, "two 5s".  Or one can add an explicit multiplier ('mute' suggested, so back to the 'luka' system, apparently) 'luka tu' is still 7 but 'luka mute tu' is 10.    All of these require some further rules about grouping ('pi', for starters) and various details.  Each of them presents some problems with the transition from the current language -- or even the old 'luka' system.  And, according to some speculators and many contented current users, the results is always a tangled mass of pluses and times (and minuses, even), that is hard to comprehend at a glance (so moving away from an optimal seven item number).

No one (I think) has suggested using exponentiation directly in number string structures.  But the more practical side of that, place notation, is the other obvious way to open number string structue.  Each number in the string is to be taken as a multiplier of a different power of the base of the system and the resulting number is the sum of these products: wyz in base b is  (w x b^2)+ (y x b) + z.  For toki pona, the obvious base is 3, since it has three numbers (counting 0).  So, 'tu tu' is 8, 'tu wan ala' is 21, and so on.  Of course, there is no longer a use for 'luka' ('wan tu').  And reasonable numbers even include this year.  To be sure, learning a new number system is a bit of a pain, but not nearly as bad as it seems in prospect, though decoding the year is a task (2016 is 2201221).

But, so the argument goes, so long as we accept the notion of place notation, why not use the familiar -- virtually universal -- one, decimal?  We could allow 'luka' and use base 6 (Happy 13200!) but that has all the relearning problems of base 3 and no real advantages.  The problem now is to find new words for the missing digits, assuming we would keep 'wan' and 'tu' and 'ala' -- or a whole new set, if not.  Starting from 'luka' as exemplar, the suggestions have focused on body parts, from 'sewi' to anpa' or some subset, or on living types, from 'jan' to 'pipi' or 'kasi' or, on another tack, the first word of each of the nine consonants.  And so on.  Or just a bunch of new words, from wherever, just for numbers.  This last is clearly not toki ponish, which tries to keep the wordlist small.  One cute intermediate suggestion was based on abacus numbers -- how many beads up to the bar and whether or ot one is also down to the bar -- so adding in 'si' ('tuli' is ungainly) and 'po' and then, with the drop,
luka, luwan, lutu, lusi lupo'.  A lesser change than a whole new set.  And, of course, 'luka' can be reanalysed as 'bar and 0' giving a new word for 0 and getting rid of the 'ala'/'ale' muddle.

But none of these are going to get acceptance on their own terms; even 'luka' and certainly 'ali' and 'mute' are still provisional.   So why this drive to get a number system that includes large numbers?  Because large numbers are important in our ordinary lives.  Or so it seems.  But we don't spend much of our lives (most of us) counting things or doing arithmetic.  I do arithmetic maybe twice a week (balance a checkbook, figure out what pan to use), but I use big numbers constantly: PINs, credit cards, telephone numbers, IP addresses, ZIP codes, order numbers, and so on.  But the joke is that none of these are numbers in a strict sense; they are neither cardinal nor ordinal, they don't add or multiply in any meaningful way.  They are, in fact, names, which just happen to be built of digits rather than letters (letters would actually be more efficient, but somehow harder to use). Some of them have an inner structure, not unlike given names, others are just distinctive strings, with no internal structure beyond the order of the digits. Even the few numbers of this class that are numbers in some usual sense, dates, for example, fall easily over into the class of more structured indices.

So, if this is a major driving force in the look for a better number system, we are looking in the wrong place.  We don't need to expand upon 'wan', 'tu', and whatever others we allow nor upon the combination rules.  We need to introduce some system into the realm of Unofficial Words (i.e., proper names).  We need some (quasi) official names for digits (and for letters as well, I would insist).  Then all these problems disappear: mi jo e ilo toki [new name] e ilo sona [another new name] e lipu mani [yet another, longer name].  Where to go for these names (other than the toki pona numbers, of course) will no doubt keep the discussion flowing for a while, but some consensus is surely possible here, where it was not with numbers, so near the core of toki pona.

And, once we have a way to deal with dates and debit cards, someone will figure out a wa y to apply this idiom to counting sheep.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Subordinate clauses

English -- and most familiar languages -- have a variety of subordinate clauses, chunks of language that are almost sentences but cannot stand on their own as fully meaningful.  toki pona has no such chunks of language, everything that is like a sentence is a sentence.  And yet, subordinate clauses play several important roles in English and these roles need to be played in toki pona as well.  This paper is about how toki pona covers these roles.  Most of it is familiar; on the context and bringing them all together is added.

The easiest -- and most familiar -- case is indirect discourse.  This presents the gist of what someone said (or thought or wrote or ....) without actually quoting it verbatim.  In English, it typically involves a clause that begins with "that" (apparently a special one, just for this purpose). and involves several shifts of reference, in pronouns and times, especially.  If someone actually says "I will be there tomorrow", this may be reported as "He said that he would be here (or at the place) today (or on the Snext day)" where the variations depend on when and where the report is made (Sorting out the time shifts are a large part of the gramar of many familiar languages, the "sequence of tense" and the various forms that this requires.) .  In toki pona, the same move is made using the ordinary 'ni "that"', a deictic pronoun pointing to the following sentence, which is just the sentential part of the English version, complete with referential shifts as needed (but not usually tense, of course).  ona li toki e nimi 'tenpo suno kama la mi lon ni' become 'ona li toki e ni: tenpo suno ni la ona li lon ni'  (or as required).

Almost equally straightforward are cases of non-restrictive relative clauses, which add new -- but relatively less salient -- information about someone already identified.  These are marked by the occurrence of a relative pronoun (who, what, which, that, ....) in place of some significant noun in what would otherwise be a sentence.  Usage -- and especially "good usage', e.g., in style books -- varies all over the place on these, depending on country and year and tone and what have you.  Apparently, the current "best" American usage is to set such clauses off with commas and to use the wh pronouns.  "John, who has a dog, is going to Italy", where it is the trip that is the focus and the dog just enters in as interesting side information.  In toki pona, the corresponding structure is just two consecutive sentences, the less central one second, with a pronominal phrase adequate to insure identification:  'jan Jon li tawa ma Italija. ona (mije/ jan ni) li jo e soweli tomo.'

Mention of non-restrictive relative clauses raises immediately the issue of restrictive relative clauses.  These function to further identify a vaguely specified object  which then plays a role in the main line of the text.  In English, these are again marked with wh relative pronouns (which look just like interrogative ones) or 'that".  Current fashion seems to be to prefer "that" as the connector and to not use commas to set the clause off: "The man that came to dinner stayed a month" (in was "the man who came" when the play was written in the 1930s).  In toki pona the pattern is to use two sentences and always use 'ni' somewhere.  Generally, the sentence corresponding to the relative clause is first and the main clause is second, with the 'ni' occurring at the appropriate place in the second sentence. But there is some variations on both which sentence comes first and where the 'ni' goes. The proposed pattern seems clearest (to me, today): 'jan li kama. tawa moku. jan ni li awen. lon tenpo mun.'  

Somewhat more remote from ordinary full sentences (and so, sometimes not considered clauses at all) are expressions where the verb is an infinitive (introduced by a special "to") and the subject, if present at all is either in the direct object form (when detectable) or introduced by "for" or the like.  These are generally associated with intentional verbs (wanting, intending and the like) and related prepositions ("in order", 'because", ...).  "She wanted him to go" ("She wanted for him to go" in some cases, "She wanted to go herself" when she is also the subordinate subject) .  The tp solution is again 'ni' in the appropriate object slot (for the verb or preposition) and the subordinate sentence as that indicated by the deixis:  'ona meli li wile e ni: ona mije li tawa' ('ona li wile e ni: ona li tawa' collapses as 'ona li wile tawa' as English does to "She wanted to go").  [Although the tp sentences are grammatically separate, a semantic/pragmatic/logic subordination persists, to prevent the word from being populated by wished-for horses. If 'mi jo e soweli tawa' is true, then so is 'soweli tawa li lon'  but if 'mi wile e (ni: mi jo e) soweli tawa' 'soweli tawa li lon' does not follow.]

There are probably more cases to consider, but these are the main ones.  Please call my attention to further cases.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

kalama pi toki pona

toki pona has 14 (segmental) phonemes, all defined as the IPA standards.  When actually spoken, however, these phonemes are realized in a variety of ways, both predictable and not.  And, in each case, a number of factors enter in that may affect the pronunciation of a particular person on a particular occasion.

To begin at the more predictable end of things.  tp does not have either length of vowels or diphthongs.  But, in practice, stressed vowels are somewhat longer (and usually slightly differently located) than unstressed.  Taking English examples -- which is a bad idea, given the muddled English vowel system, stressed /i/ is probably, in fact,  the diphthong /iy/ while the unstressed is the lower /i/ of "bit".  Similarly with /e/ (/ey/, "bet") and maybe /u/ (/uw/, "hood").  Unstressed /a/ is a schwa (the /a/ in "sofa") and, indeed, unstressed /o/ and /e/ tend that way as well.  Unstressed /o/ moves toward the open o sound but that is often collapsed in English to /a/ and so shift goes on.  Stressed /a/ also often gets (not regularly, apparently) the pronunciation of the /a/ in "hat".  Other substrate languages (and, indeed, other dialects of English) probably have other patterns of difference.  Except in the rare cases where the variation of one vowel goes into the range of another (I live with a speaker who does not reliably distinguish "pin" and "pen" and 'pen" and "pan"), none of these variations are significant for tp.

Much the same is true of the consonants.  The standard for the voiceless stops is unaspirated, but English speakers pretty regularly aspirate word-initial and stress-initial stops.  The standard for /t/ is dental, but English speakers regularly use alveolar.  And so on.  And, again, other languages have other variations.  In particular, an L1 substrate that has nasalized vowels (French, Portuguese, come to mind) will appear in nasalization of word-final /n/ -- and maybe stress-final as well.  Again -- so long as the nasal component remains -- this is not a problem.

But then there are some general phonetic principles in operation which may affect the sound of words.  One is the tendency for consonants between vowels to become voiced, so 'toki' comes out /togi/.  Still not a problem, since there are no voiced-voiceless contrasts in tp.  There is also a (weaker) tendency for stops between vowels to become fricatives, and this could be a problem, if 'mute' came out /muse/ and so fell in with 'musi', say.  So far, I have not heard of a 'p' becoming /f/ or a 'k' becoming /x/, but these would not be problems.  (Well, it might take a minute to get used to the difference from familiar pronunciations, but that is common to all meetings with new people.)

Somewhat harder to cope with -- and potentially more damaging -- are the random changes that apply to just one word at a time.  These tend to be idiosyncratic and based upon experiences unrelated to tp. I offer here just a few examples from my own idiolect and those I have heard:
'lon' pronounced like the name "Lon", tp 'lan', just because of the familiarity
'pona' as /bona/ probably etymological
'pini' as /fini/ also etymological
'musi' as /muzi/ even without general voicing.

Outside of the segmental phonemes, there is one common shift worth mentioning.  It sounds odd but it is not really a problem.  Because of the stress accent patterns of many languages, there is a tendency to take "stress on the first syllable" to mean "stress on the next to last syllable", as it does in most tp words.  As a result, the few three-syllable tp works are pronounced  /-'-/ rather than /'--/.  In at least the case of 'kepeken' this is reinforced etymologically. On the other hand, most three-syllable tp words look Finnish, which reinforces the first syllable rule.  One can imagine cases where this would make a difference, but I have never been able to construct a real one.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

tp FAQ 7 How different are the "dialects" of tp?

Not very; less than American and British English, probably less than Northern and Southern American English. You can read and write for a long time without knowing or showing which dialect you are in.

The least substantive issue is whether to use a comma with 'la. And, if you decide to use one, whether to put it before or after the 'la'. Commas also play a role in more substantive issues, but even here they are usually still considered optional (though occasionally appreciated). The most common place for them is before the terminal prepositional phrases, after the DO, where they prevent the preposition from being asorbed as a modifier in the DO: 'ona li pana e tomo tawa mi' (“He gave my car”) vs 'ona li pana e tomo, tawa mi' (“He gave me a house”). Other possible places are in modifier strings, to prevent new modifiers being caught up in earlier 'pi' phrases, and in 'la' strings, to separate out left grouping ones from the usual right groupings. The PP commas are actually a rule in one dialect (Lope's), the others are just occasional uses for some people.

The most substantive differences are in vocabulary. There are about 118 words that all dialects accept and understand essentially the same way. Then there are about half a dozen words which some dialects have but other lack or treat as mere variants of other words. The not firmly fixed words are 'esun' “shop”, 'kin' [emphasis], 'kipisi' “cut”, 'monsuta' “fearsome” 'namako' “excess”, and 'oko' “eye”. A few people have occasionally also revived an old word for a particular purpose.

In addition, there are a number of variations on how generally accepted words are used: some allow only 'wan' and 'tu' as numbers; some allow 'luka' (5) as well, some even allow 'mute' (20) and 'ale' (100). Some people use 'lukin' for “look for, seek”, others prefer 'alasa'. Some take 'kute' to mean “obey”; others don't. And there are probably others of this sort.

There are even a few variations in grammar. As noted (FAQ 3), some people still take 'kepeken' to be a verb (with 'e' before the DO) when in the verb position. Others take it as a preposition everywhere. Despite very different descriptions of how 'pi' works (FAQ 5), most people deal with actual cases about the same way. The most common difference is over whether prepositional phrases as modifiers need 'pi'.

Since there is no readily available good source of idioms (compound words) , some people will know some that others do not, with inevitable loss of communication for the moment. In a few cases – those around 'toki' being the most common (FAQ 4) – alternate idioms are fairly common.

But, for the most part, people know of the variations (or simply don't notice them) and get on with the substance of what is being said.   

tp FAQ 6 How do you make a question in tp?

Well, not like that. The most striking feature of tp questions for English speakers is that they are exactly like non-questions: there is no moving of question words to the front, no added 'do's, no changes at all except in vocabulary. In fact, it is possible to make a legitimate question in tp just by putting a question mark at at the end (and using the question intonation – whatever that is – in the spoken form). This is not generally recommended, of course, as it is likely to be misunderstood.

WH questions. The easiest form of question to make in tp is the WH question: who?, what?, where? when?, why?, how?, and so on. This formed by putting the WH word where the answer would go: “Who is that man?” is 'jan ni li seme?' and the answer would be '(jan ni li) jan Wasi' (or 'seme li jan ni' with corresponding change in the answer. But the first is more tp and the latter more influenced by English). So, frame your answer and then put 'seme' in for the uncertain part. The other WH words are handled in tp with prepositions: 'tan seme?' “why?/because of what?; 'tawa seme?', “why?, for what purpose?”; 'lon seme?' “where?”; 'lon tenpo seme?', “when?”; 'kepeken nasin seme?', “how?” and so on.
One has to be careful about answering such questions, however. Although the “replace 'seme' with the answer” is a handy guide, it cannot be followed mechanically. Aside from the problems with 'nimi sina li seme' noted earlier (FAQ 2), such simple questions as 'sina seme e ona' “What are you doing to her?” can contain hidden problems. In this case, the question seems to require as an answer a transitive verb with 'ona' (assumed here to be a person) as the direct object. So, if the correct answer is 'unpa' or 'moku' or 'utala', there is no (grammatical) problem. But what if you are just talking with her? 'toki' is a transitive verb, but it does not take an animate object. You want to say 'mi toki taso poka ona' and that is the right response, answer matrix to the contrary notwithstanding. That is 'seme e' asks for a relevant predicate in which the given DO plays a significant role, but not necessarily the DO role. 'seme' in every place is to be understood in a similar broad way, asking for the relevant information, not just a quick filling of a form. Note that the answer may require a whole sentence, even though it looks like only a word is needed.

Choice questions. With WH questions, the range of answers is open, just about anything of the right sort (noun, adjective, verb) might be correct in some case. In choice questions the range is restricted to two (or a few more) choices. These choices are laid out in the appropriate place by connecting them with 'anu', “or”. “Do you want coffee or tea?” 'sina wile e telo pimeja anu telo laso?' The question mark (which I admit to often forgetting) and the question intonation are important here, since the same sentence pattern can be declarative: the announcement for the stewardess asks the question above: 'sina ken jo e telo pimeja anu telo laso', for example. The answer here is simple to give your choice 'pimeja' or 'laso' (and probably 'ala' for “neither”, and maybe 'en'/'tu' for both). This works in all positions, but the broader issues may still arise (as the neither and both options suggest – is there a further choice unmentioned?).

Y/N/- questions. These are a strange combination of the first two (and the one to come, for that matter). They consist of a declarative sentence followed by 'anu seme?' In this, 'seme' replaces a whole sentence and gives the respondent the opportunity to supply whatever he wants (of relevance, of course). But the issue here is truth. So, as a choice question, you can choose between the offered sentence, acknowledging it as true (the Y option) or anything else, which both denies the given sentence (N) and offers an opportunity to provide a replacement. Admittedly, the expected N answer is just the denial of the given sentence (it with 'ala' after the verb) and so the Y answer can be just the verb of the given sentence and the N answer just 'ala', as well as the whole sentence. But other things are possible and legitimate: given 'sina tawa sitelen tawa anu seme?' aside from '(mi) tawa (sitelen tawa') or '(mi) (tawa) ala (sitelen tawa)' you can get N answers like 'mi wile telo e linja' or even 'soweli mi li ike sijelo'. While these alternatives play a straightforward role in this kind of question, they play the role of explanations and excuses in the final kind.

Y/N questions. This is just a Y/N/- question with the options of 'seme' replaced by the negative sentence and the whole fused. However, the fusion has also been reduced so that, rather than 'sina tawa ala anu tawa sitelen tawa', we have only 'sina tawa ala tawa sitelen tawa'. But the effect is what you would expect: the answers are just 'tawa' (Y) and '(tawa) ala' (N).
[This pseudo-transformational explanation is not historically correct. The pattern was taken over from Chinese, although the direct translation would have been 'tawa tawa ala' from 'go not go', but the word order was kept, although reinterpreted. Hence the fact that the negated verb appears first, apparently.]

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

tp FAQ 5 What does 'pi' mean?

pi' groups two or more words together into a unit in a modifier string.

That is, it doesn't mean any thing, any more than 'li' o 'e' do. Or it means whatever modification means and there there are several separate stories. The first three have nothing to do with 'pi', since it is never used with them directly. The others are relevant because whenever the modifier is more than one wor long, it requires a 'pi' before it.

1. 'ni' “this/that” Attached to a noun phrase, 'ni' indicates a particular case (or cases) of things satisfying the description, which one is determined by context, often just the previous sentence (the thing referred to by essentially the same phrases) but also waving at the environment. Attached to verbs it indicates a particular way of doing things, usually demonstrated or described in the context, “thus”.
['ni' is used as a pronoun to refer to the content of the whole of previous (or following) sentence, as opposed to 'ona' which refers to the referent of a previous noun phrase only. When 'ona' refers back to x, 'x ni' can replace it, but the suggestion is often of a closer connection, for example, the tp equivalent of a restrictive relative clause.]
'ni' when it occurs is usually one of the last three modifiers, but, if the modifier string involves a number of 'pi' phrases, it may move up toward the head, just before the 'pi's begin. If it is left to the end, it can use a comma.
'ni' is never itself modified.

2 'kin' is used to emphasize a word for a variety of reasons. The usual list is: emotive stress, contrast, extension, and corection.

Emotive stress. This is a sort of comparative but without any claim to actually compare: the object simply arouses an emotional response beyond normal: 'ni li suli kin!' “It's hyuuuge!” 'jaki kin!' “Ewww, gross!”

Contrast. A claim is made and another contrasts with it. 'mi awa ma Italija' 'pona. mi tawa ma Kanse kin' “Im'm going to Italy.” Nice, but I'm going to France
Extension. Adding more cases to a claim. 'mi tawa ma Italja' 'mi kin' “I'm going to Italy. Me too!”
Correction. 'mi jo soweli suli' 'sina jo e kin soweli suli' ('kin' can go with any word, not just nouns and verbs).
'kin' can, as noted, turn up anywhere, but it is never modified. It always affects the word just before it, so doen't get commas.
3. Numbers, both cardinal (strings of tp numbers in order 'ale mute luka tu wan' or 'ala' alone) and ordinal (as before but with 'nanpa' in front) don't take 'pi' no matter how long they are. They tend to be among the last three modifiers, but may move toward the head if threatened with 'pi' phrases. They cannot be modified and can use commas after 'pi' phrases.
4. Possession (or, better, pertinence or connection) This is the original use of 'pi', to connect noun phrases to other noun phrases to indicate that the referent of the second phrase owned or was somehow relevant to referent of the first. Just what that relevance might be is contextual, since we “own” in this sense not just our house and car but our legs, our children, our friends, our political candidates and so on.
[In this original use, 'pi' not only could occur in predicate position but also could occur with only a single word following it: 'ni li pi mi' “That is mine!”. Both of these have since largely disappeared though still occur in some textbooks. This use is, fo course, the source of the definition “of” in most word lists and the explanation “attaches a noun + adjective to a noun phrase” that is also common, though usually immediately contradicted in the examples.]
Possession is usually among the last three modifiers, but does not move forward except if it is a fairly simple (especially one-word) form. Strictly speaking, possessions cannot be modified, but the noun phrase involved may involved many levels of modification.
5. Incorporation. This process is peculiar to predicates. In it, the peripheral terms, the objects, come to modify the verb directly. In English we can go from “He hunts ducks” to “He is a duck hunter”, and other languages use this process even more centrally. So also in tp: from 'ona li alasa e waso telo' we can get to 'ona li alasa pi waso telo'. Similarly, 'ona li alasa, kepeken palisa pana' can become 'ona li alasa pi kepeken palisa pana' and then even 'ona li alasa pi palisa pana', because of the vagueness of the modifier relation. (Note that tp here reproduces exactly the ambiguity of English “rifle hunter” meaning either “hunts with rifles” or “hunts for rifles', since the difference between direct object and prepositional object has been dissolved.)
6. Degrees. This is best thought of as occurring in the predicate, too, to be transferred later to subject and objects. Simple modifiers come in degrees: not at all, a little, normal, a lot, and totally (roughly speaking) and both “a little” and “a lot” can have degrees, too. And most of these can be denied one way or another as well, So around the normal 'suli' there grow up 'suli ala' (which may not be quite 'li') and 'suli lili' and 'suli mute' and 'suli ali' – and the emotive 'suli kin'. And these can be shaded, with meanings to be worked out in context: 'suli lili ala' “not slightly large” and 'suli pi lili ala' “large and not slightly” and so on.
7. Blends. This obviously applies in the case of color words in tp, where, if we want to be more specifically green than “laso” (which covers about half of green over to into purple), we day 'laso jelo' “yellowish green”. But it sometimes applies in oter cases, where something is not quite really some way, but is sorta that way: 'ilo jan' “robot” is a machine that is humanish, sorta human, for example. And there are surely other cases in this way.
8. But the vast majority of cases of modification are just buried restrictive relative clauses: x{y} is just a compression of 'x li y' ({y} is just y, If that is one word, otherwise it is 'pi y'.) Thus, whenever a modifier string gets hard to figure out, we can stop and go backward to the series that led up to it, seeing how it is put together. Unfortunately, as tp is constituted, there are often several paths, but, if the writer was nice, he may have left commas to show when new layers were added. It also helps to sort out degree, blends and possessions early on (numbers and 'ni' and 'kin' handle themselves to some extent.

Consider the following case: 'tomo pi laso jelo, pi soweli pi suli mute, pi jan pona mi pi alasa pi waso telo li seli.' So, something is on fire and going back to the head of the subject noun phrase, we see it is a building. So the nub is 'tomo li seli. The first thing about that building is 'tomo ni li laso jelo' “it is green” (the comma cuts off 'li laso jelo pi soweli pi suli mute' or “it is very-big-doggish green” (we have have to take this as a lump because , if 'suli mute' did not modify 'soweli', the 'pi' before 'soweli' would be followed by only one word – forbidden!). Now, we have two possibilities again, that very-big-doggish is a type of green house or that this is a case of possession. Given the vagueness of both “-ish” and possession, we can collapse these and say. 'soweli pi suli mute li jo e tomo pi laso jelo ni' ('jo' being the appropriate vague word here). Now (each 'pi' introduces a range of ambiguities) we have further cases: the comma tell us that 'jan pona' does not modify 'suli mute', but it might modify 'soweli pi suli mute', or 'tomo pi laso jelo pi soweli pi suli mute', either a blend “a friendly sort of very large dog” or “a friendly sort of green house for a large dog” or possession “a friend' very large dog” or a friend's house for a very large dog”. Ah, but the lack of a comma before 'mi' says that it modifies 'jan pona', so this is a noun, not an adjective and we can go for “possession”. But we still do not know whether it is 'jan pona mi li jo e soweli ni' or 'li jo e tomo ni'. Again, relying on the total fuzzitude of 'jo', we can pretty much say that for present purposes (i.e., before the insurance issues arise) both are true and equally effective at getting us to the right house. The final bit is (un)marked as modifying 'jan pona mi' and so tells us which of my friends 'jan pona ni li alasa pi telo waso' (presumably eventually 'e telo waso', though the thought of ducks being used for hunting has its charms). Most cases are simpler and will not need this sort of peeling; some are worse.

If y is not a number nor 'ni' nor 'kin' and modifies x, use x{y}.

Monday, March 14, 2016

tp FAQ 4 How do I use 'toki'?

A handy trick with 'toki' as a verb is to think of it as meaning “say” and see what makes sense then. The result of this is that the Direct Object, after the 'e', is what is said, either the quoted exact words (introduced by 'nimi') or a paraphrase (usually spelled out in a sentence after 'ni:') or some other description (“The Gettysburg Address”, say). What doesn't make sense there are references to persons (“I said Tom” – not, note, “I said “Tom””) or topics “I said my sister's troubles with her boyfriend”) or languages “I said Russian”.

But these things that don't fit with “say” are things we do want to say using 'toki', thought of as “speak, talk, communicate” etc. Over the years, the community has worked out more or less acceptable ways to deal with these others.

“talk to/with someone” This is easy, since it is just like English: 'toki tawa jan'. 'toki poka jan'. Thereis prbably some difference between these two, maybe that the latter implies more strongly that jan talks back. (The idea that the other person should be a Direct Object seems rooted in the notion that the DO is what is affected by the action, as a heaer would be. But that notion is not a good guide to what is a DO, since what is seen, the DO of 'lukin', is probably not affected by being seen, while the place arrived, the object, but not the DO, of 'tawa', probably is.)

“talk about something” Here the temptation is to find a preposition for “about”, just like the last case. But there is no obvious candidate, though both 'tawa' and 'tan' have been tried (and maybe 'lon', too). The community solution (not our best effort, admittedly) is 'toki e ijo {x}' for “talk about x” (where “{x}” comes out as x, if x is a single word, but as 'pi x' otherwise). Of course, this gets funny looking when talking about many things, 'toki e ijo pi ijo mute' and the like. And, as has been pointed out, the 'pi' – or the modifier relation – just is a sort of “about”, the whole being literally “say something about x”. So, why not just use 'toki {x}'?

“speak [language]” Like the other two cases so far, this was once treated as a DO (hence the word for “language” is 'toki') but the usual sort of cross-talking problems arose. The community was torn between introducing the language using 'kepeken' and 'lon', but settled on 'kepeken'. Sonja settled on 'lon'. Now both prepositions are used freely, often in the same paragraph. There is also a dialect, preserved in some textbooks, that take the language used as an adverb of manner to the verb and so attach it directly: 'toki pi toki pona' (cf the Esperanto of my youth: “tcu vi parolas esperante”). This was one reason why the direct attachment did not catch on for talking about: we might want to talk about toki pona in English, for example, which would them be indistinguishable from talking about English in toki pona: 'toki pi toki pona, pi toki Inli'.

In the end, both adverbial uses were rejected because they muddled ordinary adverbial uses. I want to be able to talk a lot, 'toki mute', without worrying about whether I am also talking about a lot athings or about magnitude or in many languages.

tp FAQ 3 Doesn't 'kepeken' need an 'e'?

That is, if you mean to introduce the reference to the tool being used. 'kepeken' is a preposition and the characteristic of those words is that they always take their object immediately after them, without an intervening 'e', as verbs require.

That being said, there is a dialect of tp which harks back to a few years ago and which is still around in older textbooks and those derived from them, in which 'kepeken' is a verb or a verb and preposition. So, in this dialect, when 'kepeken' occupies the verb slot (right after 'li', etc.) it is a verb and requires 'e'. If it comes at the end, it is a preposition and doesn't.

But prepositions can go into the verb slot and, once there, still don't need 'e'. And the community came to notice that there was little difference between saying “He uses a tool for some unmentioned activity” and “He does some unmentioned activity using a tool” and so stuck with the simpler, no 'e', version throughout

It should also be noted that prepositions, like all non-verbs, can be used as transitive verbs in a causative sense. In that case, the Direct Object must, as usual, be introduced by 'e'. So, “I use a tool” is 'mi kepeken ilo' but “I make him use a tool” is “mi kepeken ilo e ona'

(Speaking of which, why, with all the drive to trim down the number of words in official tp, does it still have both 'kepeken' and 'ilo'?)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

tp FAQ 2 How do I answer 'nimi sina li seme?'

Suppose you are (or plan to be) jan Wasi in the tp community.

Then the safe and adequate answer is 'mi jan Wasi'

But this doesn't seem to answer the question exactly, which calls for a word or expression that fits into the place of 'seme', but you have given a sentence of a different form. We will talk about the problems with this notion of answering questions later, but for now, look at some problems with attempts to meet that requirement,

'(nimi mi li) jan Wasi'. But 'jan Wasi' refers to you, so this literally says “My name is me”. It says that your name is a person and a person is a name, both absurd; names and people are different. Further, it says that 'jan' is part of your name, which it is not. Your name in tp is an adjective which requires to always have a noun to lean on when being used to refer to you and, for people, that noun is usually 'jan'. But your name is the supporting adjective, not the whole expression; that is just how we use the name to refer to you.

So, maybe a better answer is '(nimi mi li) Wasi', which is what pu recommends. But remember that the rule is that a proper adjective (name) has always to have a noun to lean on and there isn't one here, so this is ungrammatical apparently. The immediate rescue is to say that it leans on the 'nimi' subject of the sentence, but that isn't quite right either. Suppose we redundantly repeat that subject in the predicate: '(nimi mi li) nimi Wasi'. Remember that proper adjectives mean “called by this word”, so this means that my name – not me, necessarily – is named 'Wasi'. So, the interesting question now is, what is this name named 'Wasi'?

Incidentally, if the adjective in 'nimi mi li Wasi' actually does modify the subject 'nimi mi' and so does not need a noun directly in front of it, why is the correct answer to 'sina seme?' and the like not just 'mi Wasi.', which would then be grammatical as a sentence and have the adjective modifying the right thing, for a change?  

We need to pause here a moment to think about the names of words. If we want to talk about something, we have to use a name for it (in some broad sense, but in the present case we can stick with the narrow one). We cannot use the thing itself to talk about it; my claim that my cat is cute does not start off with my cat in all her furry glory in the subject place of the sentence. Subjects are words and cats aren't. But names are. So we can put a name in the subject (or object, etc.) place in a sentence about that name and the grammar will be possible, even fine. But we usually end up saying something weird: “Bets is four letters long. Bets is my sister. So my sister is four letters long” Ahah! An ambiguity in the use of the word “Bets”, once as a name for a person and once as a name for that name. But this ambiguity is systemic and should be avoided systematically. Let us have – as we do – a standardized name for words. Let us enclose a word in quotes as a name for the word itself (there are other systematic possibilities, like spelling it out, but this is short and simple), as I have been doing throughout here. If we transfer this pattern to tp, our problems disappear.

But we have to remember that quotation names (and this covers cases of quotations of longer expressions) are names, thus adjectives, thus needing a noun to lean on, typically 'nimi'. So the right way to answer the question at the start, if you insist on, matching 'seme', is '(nimi mi li) nimi 'Wasi''. The other possible unobjectionable approach is '(nimi mi li) ni:' Wasi. Where what follows the colon is not another word in the sentence by a display of a name to which we now point with 'ni'.

After all that, I admit that I have no expectation that anyone will do this right (well, I do hope most people will reply with 'mi jan Wasi') but will continue to use the three muddled forms. And everyone will understand and almost no one will complain. A proof that just because you understand what a person is trying to say, doesn't mean that he has said it correctly or even coherently; it just means you are a cooperative and involved listener.     

tp FAQ 1. What do 'li' and 'e' do?

A bit of back ground first. Both English and tp have a basic Subject-Verb-Object format, a noun-phrase (noun plus maybe some adjectives) describing who does or is what the sentence is about, followed by a verb phrase (verb plus maybe some adverb or a copula --”be” plus a noun or adjective) telling what the subject is or does and then maybe another noun phrase telling what the subject did that to. In English, it is usually pretty easy to tell nouns from verbs from adverbs from adjectives. They are usually different words and they behave differently. Thus, it is pretty easy to tell when the subject (a noun phrase) ends and a verb phrase, the verb, begins, and, similarly, when another noun phrase, the object, starts up. In “The tall man shot the fat duck”, “shot” is pretty clearly a verb, so the noun phrase before it constitute the subject and the noun phrase after it the object.

The situation is quite different in tp: either it has no nouns, verbs, etc. or almost every word is in several of these categories or there ae many words in different categories that look exactly the same. However you describe the situation, if you just have a string of words that might be nouns or adjectives or verbs or adverbs, it is not clear where the sections are. Consider this:'jan suli utala waso suli'. It turns out that one can divided this into Subject-Verb-Object (or even without the object) almost anywhere and get a grammatical – if sometimes decidedly odd – sentence. “A man aggressively enlarged a large bird” (j/su/ws) “A large man aerially attacked a fatty” (js/uw/s) “And aggressive large man is a fat bird (jsu/ws) and so on, including, of course “A big man attacked a large bird” (js/u/ws). To be sure, context will often eliminate many of these from consideration, but not in all cases and, in some cases, we may want to say one of the less likely things – it would be news, after all, if a big, bellicose man made a large object fly (jsu/w/s). So, to be on the safe side, we need ways to say explicitly in tp what is done covertly in English by the shifting between nouns and verbs.

'li' goes at the break between the Subject noun phrase and the Verb verb phrase, where in English there is the shift from noun to verb.

'e' goes in the break between the Verb verb phrase and the Object noun phrase, where in English there is the shift from verb to noun.

So, when you have finished saying who is doing the doing but before you say what is done, drop in 'li'. And when you are done with the doing and before you get to whom it is done to, drop in 'e'.

The sentnces above look like this then:
jan li suli utala e waso suli
jan suli li utala waso e suli
jan suli utala li waso suli
jan suli li utala e waso suli
jan suli utala li waso e suli

There will be some complication – but very minor ones – when we get to compound sentences, but that is later.

There are, however, three complications which arise immediately and need to be dealt with now.

1. When the whole of the subject is 'mi' or 'sina', 'li' is NOT inserted before the verb. Note that this does no affect subjects of more than one word that involve 'mi' or 'sina', like 'mi mute' or 'sina ali', or 'tomo mi', all of which require 'li'. This exclusion also does not extend to other pronouns, 'ona' and 'ni' both of which always require 'li'.

2. the verb place in a sentence is sometimes occupied by a preposition (a small class of words which are set aside just for the following reason). Prepositions take objects, but they are not the Direct Objects of the Subject-Verb-Object pattern. In particular, they attach to the preposition directly with out an intervening 'e'. So, “I am going home” is 'mi tawa tomo', NOT 'mi tawa e tomo'. To make matters slightly worse, 'mi tawa e tomo' is a good sentence but with a different meaning, “I move my house”, where the preposition behaves like an ordinary verb (as most non-verbs can). So, in applying the 'e' rule, you need to be aware when you are using a preposition and when you are using it AS a preposition.

3. Strictly speaking, the pattern of tp sentences is more completely given as Subject-Verb-Object-Prepositional Phrase. There is no marker like 'li' and 'e' to indicate the beginning of a propositional phrase at the end of a sentence, but the same sort of problems can arise here as those met by 'li' and 'e':
'ona li pana e tomo tawa mi' may mean either “He gave me a house” or “He gave my car”, depending on how 'tawa mi' fits in. I get a car if it is 'ona li pana e tomo/tawa mi' with 'tawa mi' a prepositional phrase. I lose a car, if it is just part of the modifier string to 'tomo'. As a kindness, some people have taken to putting a comma before final prepositional strings. These are always optional but often appreciated by readers (and the corresponding voice changes by listeners).