Compass points and relative directions

Language learning: How to speak Toki Pona, translation problems, advice, memory aids, tools and methods to learn Toki Pona and other languages faster
Lingva lernado: Kiel paroli Tokiponon, tradukproblemoj, konsiloj, memoraj helpiloj, iloj kaj metodoj por pli rapide lerni Tokiponon kaj aliajn lingvojn
uteose
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2016 4:47 am

Compass points and relative directions

Postby uteose » Thu Apr 21, 2016 5:06 am

I have been studying toki pona now for about a week, and am fascinated by the challenge of creating compound words.

So far I have had little problem coming up with compound words for almost everything I wish to describe (even if some of these have ended up being very long!) but there are several words which I have found difficult to translate - namely 'north and south, and left and right'.

East and west seem easy - 'ma suno kama' and 'ma suno tawa'.

If you stick to only one hemisphere, then you can perhaps get away with relating how the sun travels through the sky (apologies if the toki pona is bad!):

South: sky where the sun is - (ma) sewi pi suno
North: sky where the sun is not - (ma) sewi pi suno ala

Obviously, in the southern hemisphere these would have to be reversed, which might cause confusion.

Other possibilities might be using stars (north star/southern cross) or conflating up/north/down south (though even in English this annoys me!)

I'm stuck with right and left though - I've seen examples like 'side where heart is', or 'good side/bad side' but they don't feel 'definite' enough.

Perhaps toki pona is another language where cardinal directions make more sense than relative ones? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_direction#Cultures_not_using_relative_directions

Any current thoughts on this?

janKipo
Posts: 2797
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:20 pm

Re: Compass points and relative directions

Postby janKipo » Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:22 am

'ma pi suno kama' etc. also 'ma pi kama suno' and 'ma pi open suno'.

For all its boreocentrism, tp word for north is 'ma lete' and "south" is 'ma seli'. We just take them as an arbitrary choice based on population, etc.

Similarly, there has been an ageless fight about left and right. This time, we have finally found a cultural constant (for tp culture), since tp is written left to right, "left" is 'poka open' and "right" is 'poka pini'. I don't know whether this will stick.

'pi' needs two words at least after it, so 'sewi suno' and 'sewi pi suno ala' but these are not very good images even locally. The stars don't help much, since, by the time you get where one asterism is visible, the other is not.

uteose
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2016 4:47 am

Re: Compass points and relative directions

Postby uteose » Thu Apr 21, 2016 10:47 am

Thanks for this helpful reply. The left to right writing for tp does work I suppose - but yes, it will be interesting to see if this sticks!

Really not sure about ma lete/seli - I can't think how to say 'Antartic' :?:

I had another thought about north and south - would it be possible to reference the top and bottom of the earth?

I can imagine 'ma ali noka' being understandable, but I'm not sure if 'ma ali lawa' makes sense (and I suspect 'ma ali sewi' could imply the top of Mount Everest...).

I guess a lot of the problem comes from not all toki pona words having easy to define opposites... let alone spatial concepts.

janKipo
Posts: 2797
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:20 pm

Re: Compass points and relative directions

Postby janKipo » Thu Apr 21, 2016 1:03 pm

'ma suli Antatika'
'noka pi ma ali' and 'lawa pi ma ali' but they don't make much sense with a globe. You can't even get away with "where the compass points' (never mind the problems with "compass"), since Chinese compasses (the original) point South.
careful with 'sewi'; it is strictly the part above the whole thing, not the highest part ('lawa' or 'pini')

uteose
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2016 4:47 am

Re: Compass points and relative directions

Postby uteose » Thu Apr 21, 2016 2:41 pm

Ahh, yes... :oops: Sometimes I find myself unnecessarily both translating AND explaining when I try to go from English to toki pona - e.g. I'll think Antarctica, but I'll immediately want to say 'cold icy continent at bottom of earth' as if the name will be meaningless to a non-English speaker. I must train myself out of that habit.

Thanks for the heads up on sewi - I hadn't thought of pini in the sense of 'utmost' but for something like a mountain it makes perfect sense.


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