Toki Pona, a Happy Language

Sonja Elen Kisa, a translator and linguist in Canada, was depressed - so she decided to invent her own language, a simple one that would help her sort out her thoughts.

The result? Toki Pona or "good language," which has only 120 words.

Kisa created Toki Pona as an exercise in minimalism, looking for the core vocabulary that is necessary to communicate.

With only 120 words, a Toki Pona speaker must combine words to express more complicated ideas. For example, the Toki Pona phrase for "friend" is jan pona (the "j" sounds like a "y"), literally "good person."

Kisa, who is studying speech language therapy, tried to focus Toki Pona's vocabulary on basic, positive concepts.

"It has sort of a Zen or Taoist nature to it," Kisa said.

Thanks to the Web, Toki Pona [official site | wiki] actually took off: there are probably hundreds of people, drawn by the simplicity and positive-nature of the language, who have learned to speak it.

Here's a very neat LA Times story about newly invented languages and the people who speak them: Link (Image by Peter Tym for the Times)


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Ah made up languages, I can barely speak English as it is! (English is my first language) I've never been good at languages, I had to learn Irish in school for 12 years and I still don't speak it!
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