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toki pona extra page 2 - other writing systems

While the most common writing system for toki pona by far is the Latin alphabet, there have been others adapted, or created specifically, for toki pona.

Adapted writing systems

Toki pona only uses 5 vowel and 9 consonant sounds. This means that adapting toki pona for an alphabet only requires picking 14 letters (or sequences of letters) that would correspond to the same or similar sounds. For example, here’s how they can be converted to Greek and Cyrillic:

Latin Greek Cyrillic
a α а
e ε е
i ι и
j γ й
k κ к
l λ л
m μ м
n ν н
o ο о
p π п
s σ с
t τ т
u υ у
w β в

These alphabets are not fully phonetically compatible with Greek and Russian sounds. Some of the letters in toki pona are pronounced differently from their corresponding letters.

It’s a little harder to adapt toki pona for an abugida or an abjad – a writing system where consonant sounds have specific letters, and vowels are written as diacritics or additional symbols next to them. The most famous abjad is the Arabic writing system, and the most famous abugida is Devanagari (which is used for many languages in India).

The language also only has 92 possible syllables (47 if “-n” is treated as a separate syllable). This means it can also be adapted for many syllabic writing systems as well.

For example, here are some suggestions for a way to write toki pona using Hangul, the writing system of Korean. (While in features symbols representing individual sounds much like an alphabet, they’re arranged in syllabic blocks.)

With some relatively small changes in sounds, it can also be written with the Japanese Hiragana system, as proposed here:

sitelen pona

The most common writing system created for toki pona is the logographic sitelen pona (“simple writing”), created by Sonja Lang herself and published in the official book.

Much like the Latin alphabet, it’s written left-to-right and top-to-bottom, but each character represents an entire word instead of just one sound (or even more if “composite characters” are used). Unofficial words are written inside cartouches (long shapes that surround a bunch of characters), with characters for each letter added inside.

sitelen sitelen

Jonathan Gabel’s “sitelen sitelen” writing system was designed as a more aesthetically pleasant method to write texts in toki pona. It’s a non-linear system visually inspired by the Mayan script.

Compared to writing toki pona in Latin alphabet or sitelen pona, sitelen sitelen is significantly more difficult to understand, and therefore is only used rarely by the community. However, the impressive visual style of texts written in it – such as this contract or the toki pona proverbs – many of which are also used in the official book – cannot be denied.

sitelen telo

The “sitelen telo” system is another community-created writing system for toki pona. It’s styled after the kana and kanji writing systems used for Japanese, with characters written using straight strokes and smooth curving shapes. It consists of “linja telo”, a logographic script where all official words (and some popular community-created ones) have a character, and of “linja sin”, a Hangul-like syllabary for unofficial words.

table of sitelen telo characters table of linja sin syllable characters

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