toki pona

toki pona


intro’d to Toki Pona via  this share (from Mark Frazier on fb in conversation – article from jul 2015)..

What is it?’ is, when the reply is difficult or the experience unique, ‘Well, it is like —.’”

That metaphorical process is at the heart of Toki Pona, the world’s smallest language. While the Oxford English Dictionary contains a quarter of a million entries, and even Koko the gorilla communicates with over 1,000 gestures in American Sign Language, the total vocabulary of Toki Pona is a mere 123 words.

fitting with thinking on words… and our need to always stay curious.. ie: what do you mean by that.

perhaps a case/space for idiosyncratic jargon as well.. they might complement/complete each other..

as the creator Sonja Lang and many other Toki Pona speakers insist, it is enough to express almost any idea. This economy of form is accomplished by reducing symbolic thought to its most basic elements, merging related concepts, and having single words perform multiple functions of speech.


takes about 30 hours to master. That ease of acquisition, many of them believe, makes it an ideal international auxiliary language—the realization of an ancient dream to return humanity to a pre-Babel unity. Toki Pona serves that function already for hundreds of enthusiasts connected via online communities in countries as diverse as Japan, Belgium, New Zealand, and Argentina.

In addition to making Toki Pona simple to learn, the language’s minimalist approach is also designed to change how its speakers think. The paucity of terms provokes a kind of creative circumlocution that requires careful attention to detail. An avoidance of set phrases keeps the process fluid. The result, according to Lang, is to immerse the speaker in the moment, in a state reminiscent of what Zen Buddhists call mindfulness.

avoidance of set phrases. yes.

set ness perpetuating illusion of complete ness (and poverty being.. absence of shalom/completeness)

communication quote by shaw

The real question is: What is a car to you?

As with most things in Toki Pona, the answer is relative.

“We wear many hats in life,” Lang continued, “One moment I might be a sister, the next moment a worker, or a writer. Things change and we have to adapt.”

The language’s dependence on subjectivity and context is also an exercise in perspective-taking. “You have to consider your interlocutor’s way of understanding the world, or situation,” the Polish citizen Marta Krzeminska stated. “For that reason, I think it has great potential for bringing people together.”


The polyglot Christopher Huff agreed, noting that Toki Pona had made him more honest. “I’m more comfortable now with the things I don’t know.”

“I didn’t realize how complex other languages are until I started speaking Toki Pona,” Krzeminska added. “There are so many different things you have to say before you actually get to say what you want, and there are so many things you’re not allowed to say even though you mean them


“I was inspired by hunter-gatherers,” Lang noted. “I thought, what would it have been like to just be a person in nature, interacting with things in a primitive way?”


For a different perspective, I spoke with John Quijada, the creator of Ithkuil. The former DMV employee spent three decades perfecting what he calls, “an idealized language whose aim is the highest possible degree of logic, efficiency, detail, and accuracy in cognitive expression.” By combining 58 phonemes within an exacting grammatical framework, Ithkuil is designed to precisely express all possible human thoughts. It is so complex that even its creator often requires 10 minutes or more to assemble a single word.


“I’ve always been so fascinated by ambiguity,” Quijada admitted. “I have a great deal of respect for it. That’s one of the reasons why I tried to defeat it—to see if it could be defeated.”

As for the disparity between Toki Pona and Ithkuil, the music-lover was predictably succinct. “It’s the difference between John Cage’s 4’33” and a Beethoven symphony.”


wikipedia small

Toki Pona is a constructed language, first published as draft on the web in 2001 and then as a complete book and e-book Toki Pona: The Language of Good in 2014. It was designed by translator and linguist Sonja Lang (formerly *Sonja Elen Kisa) of Toronto.

Toki Pona is a minimal language. Like a pidgin, it focuses on simple concepts and elements that are relatively universal among cultures. Lang designed Toki Pona to express maximal meaning with minimal complexity. The language has 14 phonemes and 120 root words. It is not designed as an international auxiliary language but is instead inspired by Taoist philosophy, among other things.

The language is designed to shape the thought processes of its users, in the style of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, in Zen-like fashion.

*Sonja Elen Kisa

Sonja Elen Kisa ( 1 November of 1978 ) is the creator of the constructed language Toki Pona . It is a linguist and translator involved in work in English , French and Esperanto . Presently he is living in Moncton , New Brunswick , Canada . To create the Toki Pona, it was based on the basic principles of Taoism.


imagining a world where we oscillate between idiosyncratic jargon (individual and tribe ish) and a sort of toki pona ness..