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Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought" - Toki Pona Forums

Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

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janMato
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Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby janMato » Fri Aug 13, 2010 12:54 pm

I'm reading "The Stuff of Thought" The sections on numbers and left/right are must-reads for toki pona fans. I .

The gist of it is that everyone seems to get for free (without specific training) the ability to approximately ordinally rank small values, and English has this ability too:

none, a few, a couple, a bunch, a lot, a whole lot, a boat load, more than I can imagine.

Adjacent phrases may be equal to each other, the error of the estimate grows as we move from the words meaning small quantities to the words meaning large quantities. This is how the piraha and the Munduruku count. The kicker is that the Mundruku count 1,2,3,4,5, many, but in usage, it *means* about 1, about 2, about 3, about 4, about 5, something about five or more.

What this means for toki pona is that if ala, wan, tu, mute is supposed to work the way it does in primitive societies without widespread exact counting skills, then tu means "some small number close to two, but not necessarily two exactly" ala, wan, tu, mute is not a truncated exact number system. This is somehow freeing, imho, because it means exact numbers in the real world are extra-linguistic and fair game for naming, same as if I decided to come up with all the phrases necessary to describe running a coffee shop or writing C# code.

There is also a fantastic section on . They use strictly geo-spatial orientation words, uphill, downhill. Other languages are almost entirely geo-spatially centered and use south-north-east-west instead of left right.

I'm not sure what the implication is for toki pona. Toki pona doesn't have good single word descriptors for egocentric (left-right) or geocentric (N-S-E-W, upriver-downriver, uphill-downhill). In fact, toki pona can describe up down better than it can describe the other axis.

Geocentric phrases work best when your colocutor knows the lay of the land as well as you do. On a forum, there is no lay of the land, except maybe when referring to the text on the screen. As much as we might prefer the more "primative" geocentric construction, we can't really use it on the internet, where 99% of all toki pona communication happens.

sina pakala e kulupu nimi lon poka pilin pi kulupu nimi sina. You made a mistake at the heart side of your sentence.

mi lape lon poka lete pi tomo mi. I sleep on the side of my house closer to the (north/south) pole. This is confusing unless everyone knows where you live (Australia or California?)

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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby janKipo » Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:06 pm

My usual caution about languages which don't have X; namely that such claims have fairly regularly turned out to be wrong, certrainly in detail and often in general. that aside, tp is good on up and down and fore and aft, but not otherwise for directions. It has a lot of expressions that work for nonce bu no set forms. Of course, having set forms is not tp's goal, so nonce forms are just fine -- though some favorites (Koko /Diamond/Mountain/Sea, for example) aren't really available either. We get by I hope. But it is a problem in the world without context (I think a little world building might be useful here, but I'm not up to it by about 40 years). All we can do is text oriented: as Mato suggests to the heart side (assuming your with the majority on this -- maybe on the beginning side 'lon poka open' or 'tawa open')
The number puzzle is as old as tp. I suspect that the approximate notion is what is really in force, except that 1 and 2 are so easy to be precise about and not confuse.

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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby jan Seloki » Thu Mar 12, 2020 1:29 pm

poka open could be 'East' & poka pini could be 'west'. 'poka open' for the side the sun rises in (open) & 'poka pini' for the side the sun sets in (pini). You could use 'ma' for that instead of poka. To use that you need to know north & west though. Maybe poka open should be left, & poka pini should be right, because most people read left to right.
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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby janKipo » Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:38 am

Well, I think the tendency is to use ‘swi’ and ‘anpa’ rather that ‘open’ and ‘pini’ for East and West. They don’t require knowing about North and South or about Left and right. For Left and Right, I think we have settled on ‘pok open’ for “left” and ‘poka pini’ for “right” for essentially the reason you gie: that’s the way to write tp..

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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby jan Seloki » Mon Mar 16, 2020 9:53 pm

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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby janKipo » Tue Mar 17, 2020 7:43 am

“NOrth” and “South” have been (despite obvious objetions) ‘lete’ and ‘seli’’ since very early in tp history, ‘anpa’ and ’s\ewi’ work fine for “West” and “East’. describing the motion of the Sun.

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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby jan Seloki » Tue Mar 17, 2020 8:41 am

this thread is the first I've ever heard of anpa/sewi being used for east/west. I usually see kama/open & pini. I assume the former is referring to the sun rising/setting, but I'm not aware of that being any kind standard. I think that would confuse some people. kama/open & pini are more obvious. I think people would be more likely to think they meant north/south especially if they didn't know lete & seli.
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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby janKipo » Tue Mar 17, 2020 11:43 am

Well, you haven’t read a lot ot tp, since ‘lete’ and /‘seli’ are old and in all the better dictionaries. (“Amelika lete’, for example). The problem. with ‘open’ and ‘pini’ iis just that they can be. confused with. “left” and right” and that whole area is muddled enough already. so, ‘anpa’ and ‘sewi’.which have the advantage of being visible, as the others are not.

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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby jan Seloki » Tue Mar 17, 2020 6:43 pm

I am familiar with lete/seli. I just meant some people could be confused by seeing sewi/anpa for east/west as opposed to north/south (even if they ARE already familiar with lete/seli). Every discussion I've seen about left/right, east/west the common suggestion has been ma+ for east/west & poka+ for left/right with open/kama & pini/weka. I'm not saying those haven't been suggested, & I see the reason, but I think they could confuse some at first.
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Re: Left, right, numbers and "The Stuff of Thought"

Postby janKipo » Wed Mar 18, 2020 11:00 am

I’m not clear what ‘sewi’/‘anpa’ have to do with North and South -- conventional map reading? In any case, ‘open’ and ‘pini’ seem clearly required for “left: and “right”, so something else is required for “East” and “West”, to avoid confusion. ‘anpa’ and ‘sewi’ seem natural to Westerners, who use them regularly (“occident”, “orient”, “levant” and whatever the other is, though I sailed on it once). The sun doesn’t start out, it comes up; and it doesn’t stop, it goes down. And similarly in other languages. I don’t see teh confusion, but rather an avoidance of possible confusions.


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