Peronsal Notes

Above the dictionary itself, I will collect my thoughts about the project as it goes on. Click here to skip down to the dictionary!

pre-project shpil

Making this dictionary is going to challenge me. I have all the content words in pu (+tonsi +soko +leko) to define here. For some of these words, I’m not sure how I define them. This project is for two things:

  1. Having the dictionary I described in my semantic spaces essay seems like it’ll be a really useful tool for toki ponists of many levels.
  2. Making this dictionary will help me figure out how I define these words and how the community defines them.

I want this project to be useful and accessible, so I’m going to start it. I’m not sure if I’ll finish it, but I really hope I do, because I think it’ll be worthwhile. I’m going to start with just a couple of easier words, and as I add more this document will get longer. If you have any gripes or personal thoughts about any of these words that don’t reflect what I’ve written, please share them with me so we can start a conversation.

Insights a Few Days in

As I’ve started writing entires, I’ve begun to realize something about the nature of toki pona words. Every word has some sort of innate quality or set of related innate qualities that describe/describes its entire semantic space. If an object has one of those qualities, it is considered part of that semantic space. If it has none of them, it is not. But this gives us power as speakers, and it’s a power that many proficient speakers already use. If we give anything one of the qualities of a word, it suddenly fits within that word’s semantic space. If I use my words to frame a lamp as a protrusion on a surface, I can call it a nena. If I use my words to frame a frisbee to be a bird, I can call it a waso. Of course, these things don’t normally fit into these semantic spaces, but they can if you frame them that way.

I’ve found that what my project really is is to find those qualities I described above for each content word. This seems like it’s going to be significantly harder than I thought but it’s going to be worth it. Every entry I write will probably exist parallel to a community discussion, and I’ll have a lot of people to thank, but getting all their permission will be difficult so if you participated in one of these discussions, please let me know and I'll credit you.

a quick clarification

I'm going to clarify which words will be in this dictionary, for clarity. I will include all pu words except for the particles (a anu e en la li pi o), the pronouns (mi sina ona ni seme), the animal words (akesi kala waso soweli pipi), and the color words (jelo, loje, laso, and walo), taso and ala, as well as the word "pona". I'll include tonsi in my dictionary, though. That leaves 96 words in this dictionary. I'm choosing to write about all of these categories as supplemental essays to be included with the dictionary, but they won't have their own entries.

I'll talk about the pronouns together: I'll explain how their semantic spaces depend entirely on context. I haven't decided what to do with the animal words yet, but perhaps I'll ask some community members to describe edge cases and talk about common trends that can help describe the animal words without an Englishy lense. I'll do something similar for the color words (I don't consider pimeja to be a color word). ala and taso's main functions are as modifiers, so putting them in a list of dissimilar content words seems misguided, so I'll write about them (and kin) in their own section. Finally, I've already written an essay about pona.

clearer design goals

I've been thinking more about what I want this project to be, and I've realized something. I'm confident enough in my own usage for this to be a descriptive analysis of how I speak toki pona, and I'm confident enough that that analysis will be useful for everyone. That doesn't mean I don't want criticism, it just means I get the final say if it's just a difference of opinion. Some of my usages might be a bit weird, but for those I'll alter them to be more like what I see other people using.

A lot of what's preventing me from finishing this project as quickly as I'd like is that I'm trying to make it too many things. I want it to reflect what I think the language should be, I want it to be something that toki ponists I respect can agree with, and I want it to be something that reflects toki pona as it's used. But I can't have all of those, and I didn't even realize that I was trying to get all of them. So, I hope these thoughts will help me moving forward.


It's been quite a while since I've actually worked on this! I'm starting back up again, and my knowledge of toki pona has deepend profoundly between the time I started working on this project and now. I'm now going to include all pu words except for words that are only grammatical. That brings our total up to 113, plus tonsi makes it 114. For the time being, this is the number I'm going with. Perhaps I will make a seperate list for grammatical particles. This dictionary is, though, first and foremost a semantic dictionary. It will describe how the words are used, how they could be used, and what makes something fit into a word's semantic space. Ideally this will be a valuable tool for people of all toki pona speaking levels.

I'd also like to make clear that I plan on rewriting this intro shpil. It's rambly and no dates are marked. I think I'll just change it to describe the function of the dictionary.