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.

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