Thursday, July 27, 2017

FAQ 11 How do you say directions in toki pona?

The basics are easy.
"in front' is 'lon sinpin'
"behind" is 'lon monsi'
"above" is 'lon sewi'
"below" is 'lon anpa'
"to the side" is lon poka'

Ah, but which side, left or right?  For most of the history of tp, the argument has raged between the heart people and the hand people.  The hand people want to name "right" for the dominant hand, 'luka wawa' or 'luka lawa' or even 'luka pona' and "left" getting the negation (or 'ike' in the last case).  Lefties are not too fond of this and are a sizable portion of the population, so they object.  Heart people want to name left for the crucial organ that is (more or less) on that side:  'pona pilin' or 'pona ilo' or some other word for "heart" (all equally dubious).  But dexterocardia, while not as common as left-handedness, is still significant and those people objected to getting left with the negations again.  Some other suggestions were offered, but they all turned out to be disguised forms of one of these ('open' for"right" because I is the side you start on -- but the is because you are right-handed, for example).  Or totally arbitrary, like 'akesi' for "right" and 'wile' for "left" (or the other way around).

What was needed was something universal in tp culture by tied to the two sides.  But tp doens't have much culture, let alone universals.  Except that it is written from left to right in (a part of)  the Latin alphabet.  So, the left hadn't side is the side where writing starts, 'open', and the right is where it ends, 'pini' and no one is offended  (To b sure, there are codes for tp which run in other directions, but they are just that, codes, not the language itself.)  So,
"on the left" = 'lon poka open'
"on the right" = 'lon pona pini'
(USA users will note that this fits with the rule of thumb "Righty tighty, lefty loosy" for faucets.  It doesn't always work elsewhere.)

If we move from personal orientation to geographical, we again have some easy cases:
"East" = (ma pi) kama/open (suno)
"West" = (ma pi) weka/pini (suno)
('suno sin' had some traction for "East", but 'suno pi sin ala' seemed to long for "West"

Given the fuss about "left" and "right" and not offending anyone, one would expect "North"  and "South" to be problems.  But from earliest times the equation has been the boreocentric
"North" = 'lete'
"South" = 'seli'
Antipodeans, be damned!

These words are now so entrenched in the corpus that there seems little hope of uprooting them.  Nor has there been a real clear plan to do so, despite the objection to this situation.  Probably the best was to use the (far from universal) mapping convention, making North the top of the map ('semi/lawa') and South the bottom ('anpa/noka'). "But Chinese maps...".  (There was a version of this for the left/right problem, getting "left" from "West" and "right" from "East" -- another source of 'open'"right" suggestion and as flawed.).  A rather more elaborate scheme, a version of "the Deccan is on the right facing the rising sun", was to align the map 'open' and the personal one and then read "North" ('monsi') and "South" ('sinpin') off that.  Clever and coherent, but it means that the words for "North" and "South" are already direction words and the possibility for confusion is enormous.  Is 'tawa sinpin' "straight ahead" or "south"?  No other proposal has fared as well. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

toki pi kama pi jan kiwen *183*

jan Kaken en jan Lolen li pana e sin.  ona li tawa noka lon nasin lon ma tomo Metopoli li kute e a ni: "a. o pana e pona."  jan Lolen li tawa wawa tawa kalama ni.  jan Kaken li toki e ni. "mi tawa ilo toki li pana e sin tawa jan selo.  ona li kama  tawa insa pi tomo pi ilo toki la ona li weka e len ona li kama jan pana e sama tawa sewi li kama tawa tan a.

o lukin sewi.  ni li walo. ala. ni li tomo tawa kon.  ala. ni li jan kiwen

Thursday, February 23, 2017

tp FAQ 9 What is the point of toki pona?

What is the point of tp?

Well, first and foremost, it is fun and exhilarating.  You can learn a language in a few days and become a master at it in a few weeks! You are challenged to express yourself in new ways.  If you  meet those challenge, you have the thrill of triumph. If you don't, no harm done and try again.     Then challenged again to do it in ways that not only satisfy you but are understood by others.  You see new connections and new meanings in old experiences as you express them in a new language.  And, perhaps, you see more clearly and shed some baggage in the process.  All pleasant and exciting.

But once you get into the language, you want to work with it according to your personality and interests.  One common path, associated with writers and anthropologists in various ways, is to reconstruct or imagine the culture and life of the native speakers of the language, based on the language, surface and deep.  Different people may come up with different societies and lives, of course, but each has to account for various facts about the language.  For example, the negative words outnumber the positive  (ike, jaki, pakala, moli, monsuta versus pona, olin, musi, for one list).  Nature words are not very precise, but neither are the words of advanced technologies, nor even of agriculture.  Commercial words are limited to one that still means "flock" and another for barter. The family is present and apparently important but society beyond that is unclear, though the presence of coercion is suggested by 'wile', while other factors suggest egalitarianism.  Here, then, is a field for creative work (all the factors mentioned can be emphasized or explained away, for instance).  

Closely related to this use in theory but very different in practice is applying tp in everyday life here and now.  Try to describe and interact in your present situation using only the basics of tp.  In the process, you may notice that some things that seemed important in English disappear or that overlooked factors rise to prominence.  In particular, things stressed by social custom may be downplayed, physical realities may assume a more pressing role.  Or the opposite may appear.  In particular, your examination of your own role and actions may take on a new light, and, correspondingly, so may those of others toward you.   Generally, whatever it may be, your life takes on a new perspective, in which your action take on a different value, even different possibilities.  

Or, rather than an artlang or a pyschlang, you may think of tp as an engilang, designed to see how much one can do with how little content and structure.  The aim then is to be able to say in tp anything you can say in English (or whatever) and in a reasonably economical fashion.  This is not merely  -- or not even -- a matter of finding tp expressions for all English words.  It is rather a matter of saying in context in tp whatever can be said in a similar context in English and in a not too terribly more complex way.  This involves a long-term effort, for building a context for a particular piece often involves building at least the skeleton of a literary tradition (romantic poetry, quantum physics, crime reports, ...) on which to build the particular case. Presumably, one occasionally finds a brick wall that (at least for now) no one can see a way around.  One has then either to propose some addition to tp (large number -- bigger than three, say -- spring to mind) or set the topic aside as presently unachievable, and, in either case,  note the discovery of an (apparent) limitation.   

I pass over the use to tp as an auxlang, since no one seems to press for that and there obvious problems that offset it ease for learning.  

So, here are three uses for tp.

And fun, of course.