Comparisons

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
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Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:20 pm

Comparisons

Postby janKipo » Tue Apr 17, 2018 1:22 pm

The standard way to make a comparison in tp, "A is more x than B”, is with the two-sentence unit ‘A li x mute; B li x lili’. This approach fits nicely with certain aspects of tp: nothing like conjugations or declension, keep all setneces simple, and so on. But it is not pleasant for people from other languages. It is long and, frankly, klunky. It maes true claim using sentences which are often (usually?) false. Since it is not a single sentence, it cannot be combined conveniently with other sentences, in ‘la’ sentences, for example. But it remains the standard because alternative suggestions have not been very much better and have not gained support.

The simplest alternate suggestion is just to use ‘mute’, which does mean “more” according to the glossary, though with no examples. Indeed, in many contexts, things like ‘ni li pona mute’ clearly mean “That’s better”, not merely (or even) “That’s very good”. But moving away from implicit comparison with other situations to explicit comparisons with other things raises the problem of what goes into 'A li x mute ... B’ for ‘...’? Some semiconscious connection with ‘ante’ perhaps or a phonological echo of “than” suggests ’tan’. But ’tawa’ also seems right (’tawa’ always seems right for any preposition) and, to be safe, ‘pi’ surely covers whatever the relation is. Even ‘lon’ finds a place. But none makes a strong case. Indeed, it is not clear that a preposition is what is needed here. There are several other approaches.

One is to leap over comparatives to superlatives: "A is the most x". This is usually treated as “A is more x than anything else”. But, we might take the superlative as basic and then define comparatives with in it. One approach along this line is to take “A is the most x” a ‘A li x ali’ “A is totally, perfectly, x” This is probably hyperbole, but, given the standard approach, it seems minor. It is also open to some clarification: “among Bs” rather than absolutely. And here ‘tan’ seems natural for the group involved. So “A is the most x B” is just ‘A li x ali tan B’. But B can be any class, so in particular, the class whose only members are A and B, and the winner then is the one that is more x: ‘A li x ali tan A en B’. Still a little klunky but shorter and clearer than the standard comparison. Of course, all the steps here are questionable and certainly not standard.

Another path is to take a practical approach: how do we decide that A is xer than B? We put them together (somehow) and compare. Operationally, then, "A next to B looks x”, ‘A li x lukin lon poka {B}’. There are questions about whether this very physical approach can be extended to other sorts of properties (pona, for example) and whether, even for physical one, ‘lukin’ and ‘lon poka’ are the best way of putting it, but, even if they are sometimes metaphorical, they seem to be pretty close to right. This suggestion is relatively new, so there is still a chance for furtehr refinements.

There is also a principle, long held in Linguistics but rarely mentioned (linguists are as good at hiding the good stuff as theologians), that adjectives are all inherently comparatives, that is that “green” is really “greener than” or “green for”, with obvious second terms dropped. (Loglan tried to make this explicit but literalists managed to ruin its usefulness.) So, "A is more x than B” is just “A is x B” somehow realized. The term dropped for just plain “green” is (depending on which form the comparison takes) “the typical/average sort of thing that A is” or “the class o things A is”. The arguments for this notion hinges on the relativity of most adjectives: a small galaxy is a lot larger than a large microbe, say, and the naturalness of specifying not just natural classes, as in comparing two people, but also in throwing in odd-ball comparisons. “He is pleasingly slender -- for an elephant". This all means that we don’t really need a “more” expression. But we do still need a “compared to” and then we are -- for tp -- back to considering ‘tawa’ and ‘tan’ and ‘pi’, with the same uncertainties: ‘A li x ... B’. (We might consider the Loglan solution, just another argument, but that just goes too much against the strict SVO structure of tp.)

toki pona being what it is, someone was bound to suggest that, in comparisons, adjectives become verbs with the second term as object: ‘A li x e B’, “A (out)xes B”. The problem with this is that it adds another layer of ambiguity to a construction which already has two or three. On the other hand, this solution is clearly within tp. It might be that (as the English just above suggest) an extended version of ‘x’ would wor. But that starts the controversy about the right extension: ‘mute’ or ‘namako’ or ’sewi’ or selo’ or ... .

There are probably other suggestions for comparisons, but all will probably fit within these general pictures (please correct this view). For now, then, the official form, with all it faults (further list probably available) remains as the only clear way to do comparisons. Pity.

Nothing about “A is more x than y” (and so “A is more x than B is y”).

SoweliNasa
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri May 04, 2018 3:59 pm

Re: Comparisons

Postby SoweliNasa » Fri May 04, 2018 4:03 pm

How about X defeats Y?

lipu li anpa e kiwen.

janKipo
Posts: 2886
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:20 pm

Re: Comparisons

Postby janKipo » Fri May 04, 2018 5:20 pm

I have in the, interim come fully around to using ‘mute’ (and ‘lili’) as prepositions; 'mi suli mute sina’ for “I am bigger than you” and so on. There is a fuller exposition of Facebook a week or so ago.
Last edited by janKipo on Tue May 15, 2018 10:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

SoweliTeloNasa
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 02, 2018 8:43 am

Re: Comparisons

Postby SoweliTeloNasa » Tue May 15, 2018 9:10 am

Using mute/lili as more/less than makes sense to me. It seems in the spirit of being able to use the tp vocabulary in any context that makes sense, and would be similar to other languages. According to a friend at work that speaks Indonesian, a lot of the grammar is similar to tp. And using mute/lili as more/less would be the same as it would be said in Indonesian (I big more you).

janKipo
Posts: 2886
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:20 pm

Re: Comparisons

Postby janKipo » Tue May 15, 2018 10:06 am

Interesting! Thanks!


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