The Great Unanswered Toki Pona Questions
Posted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 4:00 pm
Re: The Great Unanswered Toki Pona Questions
Posted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 12:00 am
Thanks for the list. A mixed bag, many unanswered p-- or answered badly -- some even great, all good to look at. S0, (says he as inevitably as death in Texas)
Don't knock worry about armadillos, they may not be great questions but the are real -- and usually solvable. And sometimes they bring good things to light: look at kinkajous!
Scope of 'ala' A great one, usually dealt with by "context will tell." But it often doesn't and it makes for real problems when there are quantifiers or conjunctions around and we have to work out how many whatsis do what or not. There are some clear cases (second word after 'pi', for one) but after that it is all variable at some level.
Canonical. What Sonja says (too seldom, alas, and not a lot lately), what Pije said generally, what others have said and not been successfully challenged on, what someone can argue for until the opposition gives up. (no names). Oh, and the latest version of Setepo's PSG, though that is known to be incomplete and occasionally inaccurate. Preetty much answered and yet fairly important still
The "right" metaphors for abstractions. "There are nine and ninety ways of writing tribal lays and every single one of them is right" (Kipling) Ditto for metaphors for whatever. It would be nice to come up with coherent patterns and that without just copying English or Swahili or whatever, but what we really need is some decisions, rather than wandering around, each following his own light. I like 'pini' and 'kama' and maybe 'awen' for time, but that is just my light and others have spatial or some other sorts of metaphors. Let's decide (or get a bull from Sonja). Unanswered and at least moderately great
Reduplication. By law, as it were, two adjoining content words are modificand and modifier. In the case of 'wile wile' we don't really have that but close enough that we can say "there is a change of realm here" "need to want" or some such. For 'kala kala' we know it will depend on context and we can even imagine various contexts for it: to distinguish "real" fish from whales and lobsters and whatever else may be counted as kala, for example.
Limits of loan words. So far it is supposedly clear (but rapidly being violated) that these are proper names and that they can enter only as adjectives to tp nouns. This seems to me to be failing fast: I expect that 'suwi pimeja Mesiko' is accepted in place of 'suwi pimeja pi ma Mesiko' even though the chocolate bar is not called "Mexico."
And it appears that quoted expressions are rapidly losing their 'nimi ni' (though that may be a different phenomenon). Whether this is a disaster or just an inevitable evolutionary step, I don't know, but it does open doors that we may not want to open, certainly not inadvertently. So, great, though officially answered. Some how, kulupu sona pi toki pona doesn't look like a real contender for a functioning group.
Punctuation. Probably trivial, but interesting anyhow. We want 1) to reproduce in writing some of the information that is given in speech by non segmental phonic effects. Now, in tp most of the major such places are already covered by explicit words (la, li, e). The most obvious one that is not -- and that creates problems -- is the final prep phrase(s), which might usefully be set off by a comma, at least some times. The others, like the end of 'pi' constructions and the scope of following modifiers seem to complex to deal with (no good device exists except parens and we just aren't going to use them at a bet -- we often don't really know or care where the scope really is). As for quotes, well, they are officially proper adjectives (modifying 'nimi' or the like) but, as noted, that connection is weak. I suppose we will continue to use quotes so long as there is someone with only a fixed font keyboard. As for other things one might want to do, stress has 'kin,' though not reliably, and then we fall back on all those other characters: caps, itals, bold and underline (etc., depending on the resources of your program).
Spelling. Well we need words for the letters (but of what alphabet after all?) for the same reason we need names for the numerals: for addresses and the like. Presumably, these can be used for spelling as well -- though spelling bee in tp are not going to be very interesting. Unanswered yet, but minor.
tenpo 22 li kama. mi wile lape. tenpo suno kama mi awen sitelen e ijo pi toki ni
Re: The Great Unanswered Toki Pona Questions
Posted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:21 pm
"pakala! ona li kama sin"
Prep phrases. I don't know the problem listed here, except as maybe a special case. My problems are 1)can prep phrases modify nouns and 2) if they do, do they need 'pi'?
To 1) the response is that 'pi' itself (or the modification relation generally) already covers all that any prep can express -- and more. But it does so without any of the details: 'pi' may be comes from or owns or dreams of or ...., whereas a prep will be (at least relatively) precise. Of course, it you want to be precise, the standard tp advice is to put it in another sentence (a relative clause, in effect). But that gets prolix. But prolix is better than complicating the grammar. But... . But ... . And so on. If we do decide that prep phrases can modify nouns, then, I think, it is automatic that they require 'pi' since they are a right grouping or at least two words in a left grouping structure. Of course, that raises again all the problems with 'pi' but no new ones. Unanswered and at least significant, if not great.
Modified pronouns are just cases of modification and, as such, are always legitimate in tp. It seems likely that their meanings are simply derived from their components in the usual (slightly fuzzy) way: 'mi mute' means "the several people for whom I am speaking," 'sina mute' is "the several people to whom I am speaking" and so on. tp isn't into rank distinctions at all there is no room to either tutoir or its opposite (not I-E btw but just a casual way for some hierarchical societies to do it: Spanish uses third person forms -- admittedly derived from plural seconds, some non I-Es use the pluralizing devices, some I-Es don't -- English actually uses the singular for the highest rank, God. Most cultures that go in for this nonsense use other devices altogether.) tp also doesn't seem to get into the "you and me but not them" or "me and them but not you" sorts of devices. They don't fit with the ethos here. Probably answered, not significant.
POS. At the moment, calling something a noun in the dictionary means one of two thing: on a particular translation, it means that is what the word means as a noun; on a general entry, it means that the various uses of the word are most easily explained by starting with it as a noun. Thus, for example, the uses and the grammar of 'tawa' are most easily explained if we start with it as a preposition, the uses of 'moku' are easiest to explain if we start with it a a transitive verb. And so on down the line. One of the things that is often easy to explain in this ways is the possibility -- or lack thereof -- of a word going into such and such further categories of use. Largely answered, but great.
Politesse. Again, this doesn't seem to be a big tp thing. Or, perhaps better, it is all of what tp is about. Simple speaking is always the correct form to use, regardless of the degree of intimacy between the conversants. We can ape the euphuistic style of the Courts in tp, but it will always be as obviously artificial as it is. Using it for real would be either ridiculous or, possibly, insulting. Nothing.
Sancta Simplicitas. I can't speak in depth for or about Sonja, but, as I understand it (filtered through my own psycho-spiritual life, no doubt), what the aim is for tp is the cultivation of a certain frame of mind, one unconcerned about the fine details of things, indeed, with things at all. So, the idea of the language is not to be able to express everything we want to say, but to get us to want only what we can say easily in the language. In line with this, idioms are formed as simply as possible, picking out the obvious and practical features: so alcoholic drinks are distinguished by their inebriating quality (can you think of another that would explain why we drink them? -- note that 'nasa' is descriptive, not pejorative) and cigarettes, if we had a word for them, would be similarly described (hmmm - palisa pi moku ko?) Great, but answers abound, often contradictorily.
One quest, mentioned occasionally above, might go on this list: Can we find a way to make clear the back scope of detached modifiers -- one that come after a 'pi' modifier is (maybe) done: 'tomo pi jan pali mute' may mean "buildings(s) for many workers" or "many buildings for workers" and if we allow repeated 'pi's (as we pretty clearly do) it just gets worse, since the final bit can hook on any head all the way back.
Oh yeah, and the problem of internal conjunctions: ' jan meli en jan mije suli' Who is big/important? 'jan li open li pini e oko ona' "blinked" or "opened (something) and closed his eye(s)"? And so on. Both of these are fussy points of advanced grammar and are properly countered by saying simply "Don't do dat" but we will anyhow, so we might well figure out how to meet it when it comes (as it has, already, I think).
Back to aardvarks or so. How to say "talk(think, see/hear/... about"
o sike suno sin li pona tawa sina ali