rnd's website logotoki pona page 0 - spelling and pronunciation

The language toki pona only uses 14 letters of the Latin alphabet, and all of these letters have consistent pronunciations.

These are: a,e,i,j,k,l,m,n,o,p,s,t,u,w.

You might have noticed that all these letters are lowercase. This is because all toki pona words are spelled in lowercase, even at the start of sentences.

The consonants (j,k,l,m,n,p,s,t,w) use the same sounds as those in English, with the exception of "j", which instead sounds like the English "y".

The vowels (a,e,i,o,u) are a bit more complicated to explain (but simpler to pronounce). Unlike English, every vowel uses the same sound in all words. If you know how to pronounce the vowel sounds in Spanish, Japanese or Esperanto, then you can pronounce them the same way in toki pona.

For examples of English words with corresponding pronunciations:

  • a sounds like the "a" in the word "far" or (in some dialects of English) the "u" in "up" or the "a" in "bath".

  • e sounds like the "e" in the word "bet".

  • i sounds like the "i" in the word "bit" or "ee" in "wee".

  • o sounds like the "o" in the word "or".

  • u sounds like the "oo" in "oops" or "moon".

The "International Phonetic Alphabet" (IPA) is a common way to write down specific pronunciations of words and phrases in any language.

It uses a version of the Latin alphabet with lots of additional characters added. For example, the IPA pronunciation of the English word "language" is /ˈlæŋɡwɪd͡ʒ/, but in toki pona, every single letter's pronunciation is its IPA symbol! So "toki pona" is pronounced /toki pona/.

Since there are so few sounds, the way they can be pronounced can be very flexible. For example, some might substitute the sounds "p,t,k" with "b,d,g". Such a shift would cause a lot of ambiguity or confusion in other languages, but toki pona's sounds were chosen to be common to many languages and easy to distinguish.

All toki pona words are pronounced with stress on their first syllable.

Exercises

Here are some toki pona words that are derived from, or sound similar to, other English words:

toki pona derived from and sounds similar to
jaki yucky
jelo yellow
ken can
mani money
mi me
mun moon
tu two
wan one
toki pona sounds similar to (may depend on your dialect)
jan young
jo yo!
kama comma
lukin looking
pan pun
sama summer
sin seen

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