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mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme? - Toki Pona Forums

mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

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janKale
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mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby janKale » Tue May 08, 2012 1:54 pm

What is "la" I don't quite understand it. What does it do? How do you use it? All it does is confuse me. :?

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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby Kuti » Tue May 08, 2012 2:15 pm

kama pona.

"la" is good to finish a clause and start the sentence. "tenpo kama la mi moku" i'm going to eat
or "ken la mi tawa" maybe i'm leaving
"la" is not translatable by itself.

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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby janMato » Tue May 08, 2012 2:18 pm

It means if, and behaves sort of like a logical operator and sort of like a sentence conjunction.

mi kama jo e mani mute la mi pilin pona kin. If I get money, I'll feel good.

X la Y. if X then Y.

Like English, toki pona doesn't really distinguish between if and iff (the two varieties of if you see in logic class)

It is also used for things that look like time, topics or adverbs. These usages popped up very early in the life of toki pona, and from time to time people wonder how legit they are. I use all of them and call them all "la fragements"

NP la S. (noun phrase la Sentence)
mute la mi wile lape. I often want to sleep.
tenpo pini la mi jan pi mani mute. I used to be rich.
mi la o pana e kili loje. As for me, give (me) the red fruit.

You can kind of sort of read the above in using an awkward but sort of meaningful "if" construction.
If it were often, Then I want to sleep.
If the time was in the past, I was rich.
If it's me, give the red fruit.

la phrases can chain, e.g.

tenpo pini la mute la mi tawa ma ko pi selo telo. I frequently went to the beach.

Chaining la sentences isn't as well understood.

meli li lon la mi pilin e olin la mi kama wan kepeken meli ni.
If there were a girl and I was in love, then I'd marry her.

Or does it mean, If a girl exists, then I'm in love, and if that's true as well, then I'll marry her. I'm not sure.

S la S la S = ? There is a post somewhere on the forum about this as well.

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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby janKale » Tue May 08, 2012 2:55 pm

jan Mato thank you. Know I think i understand. You explained it pretty well. pona mute! :D

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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby janTali » Tue May 08, 2012 6:21 pm

When I started studying Toki Pona (approximately five weeks ago :) ), what puzzled me most about la was the placement of the comma.

An early proverb of jan Sonja’s is:
mi pona e ale mi, la mi pona e mi.

but if we understand la as “if”, the following segmentation would seem more appropriate:
mi pona e ale mi la, mi pona e mi.

and in fact all three variants are widely used: comma la , la comma, and no comma at all.

I came to terms with la only after attempting to reconstruct what was going on in jan Sonja’s head when she devised this strange function word. I think this is relevant, even if I agree that often etymology sheds little light on the current language. I wanted to contact jan Sonja to ask her directly how much off the mark I was, but I didn’t, because I know that she doesn’t usually answer these times. Now this thread is the right place to post my speculations.

Toki Pona was born when the many still unresolved controversies about were dividing linguists and language lovers alike. jan Sonja sided with the ones who considered a recursion-free, number-free Pirahã the voice of an innocent, better mankind ( anyone?) She wanted no recursion and no numbers in her language either. However, a minimal, recursion-like-but-not-really-recursion structure exists in Pirahã as well. Indeed it’s almost impossible to communicate anything beyond “I Tarzan you Jane” without it. la is the word jan Sonja chose for that in Toki Pona. She later said that she took it from Esperanto “la”, but this cannot be true, because Esperanto “la” simply means “the” and is only superficially similar to our la. I think she took it from her native language, French, where “là” (with an accent) means basically “there”, but has a lot of other uses, especially in the spoken language. I'm an everyday user of French, but no native speaker, so I’ll show sentences by natives that I’ve found with Google. I’ll also give funny word-by-word English translations to let non-French speakers understand what is going on.

Tu crois ça? je suis d'accord.
You believe this? There I agree.
sina pilin e ni, la mi pilin e sama.

This easily evolves into “If you believe this, I agree.”

Qu'il te fait des promesses et tout ... Et là, t'apprends qu'il sort avec deux filles.
He makes promises and all... and there, you learn that he's dating two girls.
ona li kepeken e lawa toki wawa e ali... la sina kama sona e ni: ona li unpa e meli tu.

An easy step to “When he makes promises, ...”

J'ai compris votre cri d'appel au rassemblement du peuple... hein, quel peuple ? togolais ou sénégalais ? parce que Sénégalais, c'est déjà fait autour de Macky Sall.
I understood your rallying cry for the people’s unity... huh, which people? Togolese or Senegalese? because Senegalese, there, it’s already done around Macky Sall.
Mi sona e toki wawa sina: sina wile kulupu e jan mute. A, jan seme? jan Toko anu jan Seneka? jan Seneka, la jan Makisali li pini pali e ni.

Again: “if Senegalese...”

Therefore I don’t think that “if” is the original basic meaning of la. The original function is that of a recapitulative adverb, or, in jan Mato’s words, it’s used to mark “things that look like time, topics or adverbs”, a bit like in spoken French. A full-fledged “if” is a Toki Pona development which hasn’t (yet?) (fully?) happened in French. If you want to stress topicality, put a comma before la. If you want to stress that this is (almost) a dependent clause, put the comma after it. None of the above, no comma.

My stance on multiple la’s is that they don’t nest, and that they all set different parallel conditions for the main sentence. If they nested, this would be multiple recursion, very ike almost by definition, while in parallel, they could help establish the rich context most Toki Pona sentences need to be understandable. But there is no agreement in the community, and I’ll try to make my case tenpo kama wan la.
Last edited by janTali on Wed May 09, 2012 4:09 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby janKale » Tue May 08, 2012 9:56 pm


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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby janTali » Wed May 09, 2012 1:23 am


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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby jan-ante » Wed May 09, 2012 8:08 am


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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby janKipo » Wed May 09, 2012 12:58 pm

kama pona tawa ma Lala!

'x la S' indicates that x is a condition of S, with all the ambiguities of "of" (i.e., it can stand for almost any preposition).

When x is itself a sentence (S), it is usual to interpret 'S la S' as a conditional of some sort ("if" -- strictly, in this syntax, "only if" --, "when", etc. through generalizations; but probably not "if and only if (iff)", since there is not sign of converse conditioning -- linguistically, regardless of facts). This not the the logical "if", <1011>, since it takes time -- and probably other factors -- into consideration and so is not true whenever the first S is false (not Lojban 'ganai... gi ...' or, more precisely, 'inaja', in other words). Still some things from the logical "if" carry over: in particular that 'S la (S la S)' is the same as '(S & S) la S', which cannot be stated directly in tp (no sentential "and"). That is, a string of 'S la's grouping to the right gives a conjoin condition on the final S, after all the 'la's. This should be, I think, the standard reading for strings of sentential conditions, since any other reading gets to be practically indecipherable even in the logic form and probably comes close to meaningless in a natural language. But, in fact, the grammar (so far as I can see) does contain a rule 'S > S la S', which allows the other grouping, by recursion on the first S.

This other grouping come into play when x is something other than a sentence. The interplay of various factually significant conditions (as opposed to structural or emotional ones) can make the grouping significant, as can the interplay between these and sentential conditions. On the latter, consider '(tenpo wan la mi lon ) la mi pilin pona' vs. 'tenpo wan la (mi lon la mi pilin pona)': "If I was right once, I am content" vs. "One time, when I was right, I was content". There is, alas, nothing in the grammar to deal with these ambiguities; we must go with what makes the most sense (being generous, in this case, about the person speaking).

The non-sentential conditions, can be classified in countless ways. Here is a list of the most common -- probably not exclusive and certainly not exhaustive.

Time when: the tenses ('tenpo pini', 'tenpo kama', 'tenpo ni' [ambiguous, alas]) and more precisely (e.g., 'tenpo suno pini', 'tenpo suno pini tu wan', 'tenpo pimeja kama', but also 'tenpo pini suli' and the like).
Time during which ('tenpo suli', 'tenpo lili')
Repetitions ('tenpo wan', 'tenpo', 'tenpo ali' 'tenpo ala'. etc., as far as numbers allow)

Connectives to previous sentences. 'taso' doesn't need 'la', but 'kin' does, as well as 'tan ni' and probably some others. We don't seem to have a handy way of saying "after that" or "before that", which is probably connected to the fact that the whole notion of time expressions with prepositions is relatively (completely?) unexplored ['lon pini ni'?, 'ni pini'?]. 'ante la' and 'sama la' [maybe 'poka la'?]

'ken' which raises possibilities and maybe even subjunctive moods. Grouping may be especially significant here.

Rhetorical flourishes: comments on the following sentence ('ike la', 'nasa la', 'pona la' and maybe a few more), bullet points ('open la' or nanpa wan la', 'pini la', and so on as far as you can count or bloviate).

Topic, with the sentence as comment, typically with anaphora to this topic. 'jan Sonja la sitelen pi tawa ona li pali e ala'

Emphasized adverbs. The only case I can think of of this is 'wawa la ona li weka tan tomo', which stresses the speed of his deparature. but, of course, the temporal usages are also adverbs -- though not stressed -- and the topics are stressed but not adverbs.

More? Surely, but I can't think of them now.

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Re: mi sona ala e nimi "la". ni li seme?

Postby janKale » Wed May 09, 2012 4:07 pm

mi pilin e ni: mi sona li ken kepeken e nimi "la". pona tawa jan ale


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