Some Grammar Notes

Language learning: How to speak Toki Pona, translation problems, advice, memory aids, tools and methods to learn Toki Pona and other languages faster
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janKipo
Posts: 2825
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:20 pm

Some Grammar Notes

Postby janKipo » Sat Oct 29, 2016 3:40 pm

Miscellaneous notes on tp grammar in various styles, all tentative but working so far.

Basic sentence:

S => Subject li Predicate

Subject => o/Phrase

Phrase => Word/ Phrase{Phrase}/ Phrase en/anu Phrase / [ni: Display]
Word is ultimately any member of tp vocabulary except la, li, e, o, en, anu, kin, pi. Unofficial words
can also occur, subject to some special rules which need spelling out more precisely.
{} indicates that the enclosed is preceded by 'pi' if it contains more than one word
[] means I don't like this because it screws other things up, but I don't yet know how to deal with it.

Display => Text - / Quote
Text => Sm (i.e. one or more sentences)
Quote => 'Text'

Word => noun / verb / modifier / preposition ...
the tp vocabulary (with the noted exceptions) can represent almost any of these types (see individual entries)

Predicate => Verbal (e Phrase) (,Prepositional)n
Verbal => Phrase / Prepositional / modal ({Phrase})Predicate
Prepositional => preposition ({Phrase}) Phrase
items in parentheses need not occur. Items in parentheses with a following n may occur any number of times.

This grammar is overinclusive, but every simple tp sentence fits in it, with one lowest level obligatory transformation:
[o/mi/sina]Subject li Predicate => o/mi/sina Predicate
That is, 'li' is dropped after these three words standing alone
[]Subject means the enclosed item is the whole of the component Subject

In particular, this grammar does not account for the more or less fixed order of modifiers in Phrase and does not account for the various nature of the added Phrase. These are covered in later transformations (I hope).

Some definitions:
A sentence with [o]Subject is an imperative sentence.
A sentence containing 'seme' is a free choice interrogative sentence and ends with a ? instead of a period. The answer (to be discussed in detail later) is a Phrase replacing 'seme' or the original sentence with such a replacement.
If S is a declarative sentence, S? Is a true/false interrogative sentence, with the answers 'lon', '(lon)ala' or S or the denial of S.
Other simple sentences are declarative sentences and end with a period.

If S is a declarative sentence, 'o S' is an optative sentence, expressing a wish (etc.) that S be true. It ends with a period or !. [Note: this does not claim that the speaker actually has this wish, so an optative is neither true nor false, though it may be honest or not.]

Compound sentences
If S1 is a declarative sentence and S2 a sentence, 'S1 la S2' is a conditional sentence, of the type of S2 and with its punctuation.
If S1 and S2 are sentences, 'S1 anu S2' is a disjunctive sentence, whose type and punctuation is calculated somehow (I think follows S2, but there seem to be other cases)

There are cases where sentences clearly go together, but cannot be compounded because they are either conjunctions and we can't use 'en' between sentences or because they represent English restrictive relative clauses: 'jan ni li kama tawa moku; ona li awen lon tenpo mun' or 'jan li kama tawa moku; jan ni li awen lon tenpo mun' (and other possible formats). Here they are separated by a semicolon rather than a period. This is significant for collapse:
'A li x B; A li y B' => 'A li x li y B'
'A e x B; A e y B' => 'A e x e y B'
otherwise, 'A x B; A y B' => 'A x en y B'
'A x B anu A y B' => A x anu y B'
Hence, 'A x ala anu x B?' => 'A x ala x B?' a yes/no interrogative sentence, answer '(A)(x)ala B' or '(A)x(B)'
'S anu seme?' is an open choice interrogative sentence, answer: any salient sentence, including especially S and its denial.

'Phrase o,' is a vocative and may be added at the very front of any sentence to give a new sentence, of the type of the one to which it was added.

'Phrase o, o Predicate' => 'Phrase o Predicate' i.e., the vocative 'o' and the imperative 'o' fuse. The vocative 'o' and the 'optative 'o' do not.


Some things about 'la'

'A preposition ({Phrase}) Phrase B'=> '(preposition ({Phrase})) Phrase la A B'
It is not perfectly clear what prepositions can be dropped: 'lon' apparently pretty much always and
always before 'tenpo', 'kepeken' pretty much always, others not so clearly.

'ni: S li x' => 'x la S' (very temporary, until 'ni: Text' gets sorted out)
'x pilin e ni:S' => 'x la S'

'A ni: Display B' => 'A ni B: Display' (ditto)


Building Phrase

Incorporation (not too useful in itself, but handy later on)
'A li Verbal ({Phrase1})n e Phrase2 B' => 'A li Verb ({Phrase1}){Phrase2} B'
'A li Verb ({Phrase1})n preposition ({Phrase3})Phrase2 B' => 'A li Verb ({Phrase1})n {(preposition ({Phrase3})) {Phrase2} B' (exactly when prep, etc. can be dropped needs to be worked out).
A completely incorporated predicate (no free standing objects or prepositional phrases) is indicated by <Predicate>.

Now the basic Phrase building rule is
'A x B; 'x li y' => 'A x {<y>} B'
In this case, the {} indicate not only 'pi' but, if x ends in a pi string, the insertion of a comma before {y}.

The other rule is the relic of the original 'pi' rule, that still sticks in many descriptions of 'pi'. The original 'pi' was a particle meaning “belonging/pertaining to” and could be used with any noun phrase, both as a modifier and as a predicate, so 'ni li pi mi' was legitimate, meaning “this is mine”. Handy though this might be, I doesn't work well in the current language, so we have the replacement rules
'x li jo e y'/'y li ijo {x}; A y B' => A y{x} B'

Incorporation plays another role in Phrase building:
'A ni: Subject li Predicate B' => 'A <Predicate>{Subject} B' if the origins sentence wee S, this new expression is the complete incorporation of S, <S>.


Quotation marks.
By convention (more or less adhered to – mainly less), double quotes are used to surround names not yet fully tokiponized: 'mi jan “John Clifford”'

Otherwise, single quotes are used (they type faster)

Old rant (hopeless, but I have to keep trying): When talking about a word, such as (notably) when saying it is someone's name, we have to use a name of that word (to avoid at least paradoxes and also to keep from talking nonsense). The standard name of a word is formed by enclosing that word in quotes, so for this word: nimi, we use this one: 'nimi' and so on. This quotation name is an unoffical word in tp and so needs a supporting noun, typically 'nimi' and occasionally 'toki'. Just how direct this support has to be is open to some interpretation, however. My totally correct answer to 'nimi sina li seme?' is '(nimi mi li) nimi 'Kipo''. However, pu allows 'nimi mi li 'Kipo'' (ignoring the regular quotation mark screw up), suggesting that noun in the subject carries over to the predicate in this case. By parity of reasoning, the other good answer 'mi li jan Kipo' would allow the variant 'mi Kipo', with the subject noun doing the support role. This is not confirmed – nor denied.

In texts with a lot of dialog, or even soliloquy, the constant repetition of 'x li toki e ni: Quote' is unsightly. So, here are some legitimate variants.
1. A quotation is the name of a bit of text, used to say that someone said it (or heard it or thought it or wrote it or knows it or saw it). Hence, the whole 'e ni: Quote' can be brought into a more standard sentence form as 'e nimi Quote', getting rid of the suspect 'ni: Display' for a messy, but clearly legitimate, Phrase.
2. We can turn this pattern inside out to 'nimi Quote li toki pi x', moving the quotation in front of the speaker, as is often done in natural languages.
3. Building on that, we can split 'x li toki e ni: ' Text1 Text2', to 'nimi 'Text 1' li toki {x}. kin la 'Text2'' This needs a little work, but helps quite a bit with the appearance of texts.
4. With rapid dialog with few intervening descriptive passages, the perennial 'x li toki e ni 'Quote'' can be reduced to 'x la Quote' (cf, 'pilin' in 'la' rules).
5. In really rapid give-and-take with two parties, it is probably enough to just start each new speaker on a new line, without keeping official score of who says what.

Speaking of tidying things ups a bit, there are some dangerous (because introducing many ambiguities) devices to break up the "monotony" of tp sentence forms. Incorporation can get those floating Prepositional, especially things like 'tawa mi' with 'toki' out of the way of the direct object, Topicalization moves a Phrase from and object ('e') position or a Prepositional to the very front:
'A Phrase B' => 'Phrase la A ona B' .

Another sort of connective
S1; <S1> li tan <S2>; S2 => S1 tan ni: S2
S1; <S2> li tan <S1>; S2 => S1. Tan ni la S2.

janpona120
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:44 am

Re: Some Grammar Notes

Postby janpona120 » Sat Nov 05, 2016 8:19 am

Basic sentence: /..../ S => Subject li Predicate
This standard type of notification (parsing) is very difficult for beginners. So, propose to simplify some terms and templets, to do it more clear for newbies. At first, what is the "basic sentence" definition? The Basic sentence has 5 slots:
  • S-slot (situation)
  • M-slot (maker)
  • A-slot (action)
  • R-slot (recipient)
  • T-slot (tail/target)
It is a SMART-format. So, "pona"-style of tp-texts is to use all slots in sentences, i.e.: SMART. SMART. SMART...

If tp-sentence has not all slots, we have two cases: incomplete or complicated ones. For example, "jan li moku e kili" is an incomplete sentence without S-slot (situation) and T-slot (tail/target). Here, we have MAR-form (maker-action-recipient of action). Another example, "mi pana e telo tawa sina". This sentence is MART-form (maker-action-recipient-target).

Such a type of notation may help to distinguish: "allowed" and "forbidden" variants of sentences. So, a combination "ken la li olin" is SA-form, describing a situation and an action. Nothing else. And now, we can solve: is this form allowed of forbidden? In my opinion, at least, in poetry this form may be allowed. Of course, SA-form is very very incomplete. And many others are similar: SART, ART, AR... MAT... and so on.

Also, this notification is useful to describe complicated sentences, e.g. with a few "li-li" or "e-e" combinations. For example, "tenpo suno la jan li alasa li moku e kili kepeken palisa". This sentence has two A-slots (action), and has a view: SMAART-form.

And finally, this notation is useful to define where some words are allowed and where not. So: which slots are allowed for "en"? can "li" be placed in S-slot? Or in T-slot? I guess, by SMART-notation we will have very clear understanding. More over, a parsing become more simple.

janKipo
Posts: 2825
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:20 pm

Re: Some Grammar Notes

Postby janKipo » Sat Nov 05, 2016 11:41 am

I suppose it partly depends on purpose. I personally don't find SMART any easier than other formats and notice that it leaves out import factors -- like 'la'. 'li', and 'e', which are great aids in parsing. It also doesn't show the similarities and differences between M, A, R and T. And so on. It is, of course, easily derived from a fuller grammar by ignoring details and just presenting fully formed cases. All that being said, I would never try to teach even tp using a formal grammar like the ones given here, though I think I would not get even close to SMART before the fifth or sixth lesson.

janpona120
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:44 am

Re: Some Grammar Notes

Postby janpona120 » Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:29 am

I personally don't find SMART any easier than other formats
What is "other formats"? First, it is the famous "SVO". So, it is a question: what is better (easier...): SMART or SVO? A complete tp-sentence has 5 slots, no 3 (as in SVO). In this case, SMART is better, because "complete" --> complete is a base of easy-ness.
and notice that it leaves out import factors -- like 'la'. 'li', and 'e', which are great aids in parsing.
Why? SMART has these separators (la, li, e). They are located between slots "S...M...A...R". More over, SMART indicate that there is still one "pseudo" separator between slots "R...T" (e.g.: tawa, kepeken, lon, tan).
I think I would not get even close to SMART before the fifth or sixth lesson.
Sure. There is an "icon" SVO (incomplete, source of vagueness, but habitual, so "right"). SMART can less. For example, SMART is forbiding to join two sentences by "la": S1 + "la" + S2. Conditional sentences should be separated by a full stop: "SMART. SMART." If you need to express a condition, SMART "strongly demand" to use "ni"- pointer, "tan" or some else in S-slot (a link on the situation described in previous sentence).

About "fifth or sixth lesson". tp is a language of simplicity. In my understanding, the simplicity is a sinonym of complete-ness. SMART describes a complete version of tp-sentence, so it is in harmony with tp-spirit, I guess. SVO describes an incomplete one.

janKipo
Posts: 2825
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:20 pm

Re: Some Grammar Notes

Postby janKipo » Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:10 am

SVO is not, of course meant to be a complete description of a sentence, merely a shorthand for one feature of a language: the basic order of subject, verb, and object. Similarly NA only says that modifiers regularly come after heads, a totally different feature at a different level of analysis. SMART takes more factors into account but still leaves out many; it is just a shorthand (and a unfamiliar one) for another level of analysis, which needs filling out to be complete. And the filling out takes us to the full array of a grammar. Further, as a teaching aid, SMART is overwhelming. At the beginning we need to give just basic sentences (not even objects or modifiers), then we build, getting to the full pattern by about lesson 6. Then we can get into details and pragmatics and style and all the rest (notice how much earlier all this happens in tp than in most other languages).

As for 'S la S', no. To separate this into two sentences is to miss the whole point of the notion of conditions.


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