What is a great unanswered question? Essentially, something that is the language designers prerogative. Great unanswered questions can't be answered by appealing to linguistic univerals. They're not in the canon. It is probably about grammar more than content words. It is probably a question that made jan Kipo shrug and throw up his hands (not that I've ever seen him pass a chance to opine anyhow
Probably not how to say "armadillo" because its the communities job to use the words we have to create phrases suggestive of armadillo. A great unanswered question isn't a list of defects, [e.g. Why doesn't toki pona have more cow bell? Language designer prerogative most likely]
Other great unanswered questions might deal with internal inconsistencies in canon, or violations of linguistic universals in the canon- not that violating linguistic universals is bad, in fact it could be quite fun.
Biggies (issues everyone is likely to run into)
- How much does the "ala" negate? Preceding word, all the way back, head noun/head verb only (i.e. jumps the modifiers), or reader's choice?
- What, exactly is canonical? As for the things Sonja didn't say or publish, it's up to community to embrace, reject or ignore. This may be ultimately an unfair question because the accounting and bookkeeping for a hobby enterprise is a lot of work.
- What are the *right* metaphors for abstractions? i.e. is time a place with future forward? is time a discount store with occasional double coupon days? is business war? are discussions war?
- What does reduplication of nouns, verbs, etc mean? i.e. e kala kala, li moku moku.
This question excludes accidental reduplication, e.g. mi wile wile e sina, where the words have a different meaning.
Another example of accidental reduplication with shifting meaning would be "e moku moku" edible food.
Personally, I don't think that intensification, something being a genuine instance (jan jan, a real person), or other interpretations are obvious any more necessary than the other.
- What do verb modifiers mean? What do sentence fragments int the "la" phrase do to the verb? Most community conjugation attempts use these two methods and have the odor of grammaticalizations.
- What are the boundaries to use of loan words? names of people and countries are well established. Eponyms, suwi Mesiko (Chocolate) and the nimi "X" pi toki Inli construct could blow the lid right off the 123 root word vocabulary. We'd have a language with 123 words and 10,000 loan words with a nimi prefix. Are we to be quick to borrow, (like most language communities) or reluctant to borrow (like Icelandic and the France that the French Academy imagines exists)?
- Can a prepositional phrase "modify"/refer to a word in a preceding prepositional phrase? Particularly a noun.
jan kepeken nena sinpin suli. Man with a big nose. mi lukin e jan kepeken nena sinpin suli.
Did I use a large nose to look at the man, or did I see the man with a big nose? Or reader's choice?
- Do modified pronouns have any official status? mi mute seems to be well established, but in other languages the pronoun system is sort of grammaticalized. A simple example is that "sina mute" could mean "Sir" until you realize that is an Indo-Europeanism. If "sina mute" is questionable, what about the rest of the potential modified pronouns (e.g. the exclusive dual, ona tu li moku)
- Given that part of speech reasoning is often made by analogies with other languages, are the part of speech notes in the canonical dictionary suggestions or strict rules? I.e. if something is noted as a noun, does that mean it is at least a noun, or at most a noun?
Biggies if we hold tp to the same standards as a general purpose language, i.e. could we get share a house with someone with only toki pona as our common language?
- How do we punctuate direct quotes, verbal pauses, untransliterated words, independent clauses, do parenthesis play any role, paragraph breaks, etc.
- How do we spell? moku -> em-oh-kay-you is only intelligible to English speakers.
The fuzzy line between culture, language and conculture.
- How does one express enough polite phrases to avoid offense in a heterogenous, international, mostly internet based group of people? Not having content words or grammaticalizations for polite speech is highly unsatisfying to me, but I might be the strange one here. The mere fact that we have words for mije, meli, unpa, olin (restricted to human love) jan (separate from soweli) indicate toki pona is a language of humans and will be expected to have cultural universals, even if polite language isn't a lingusitic universal.
- Is the philosophy of simplicity the conculture? Or just something that one could say in toki pona? Are canonical editorializations, such as telo nasa (which implies alcohol is for drunkeness) part of the conculture, or just examples of speech? [English has this too. Cigarrettes are cigarettes (little french cigars) or coffin nails depending on what you and your culture thinks about them]
Anything to add? Do I have anything on the list that already has a fairly non-controversial answer?
EDITS: 12/31 Working on incorporating feedback from jan Kipo. Not done yet.