Lesson 2: Writing Syllables

Lesson 2: Writing Syllables

In this lesson, we will learn how to use all the glyph block which represent sound syllables. This is a quick way to learn how to write anything in toki pona using sitelen sitelen. The basic structure is a consonant container, a vowel inside, and an optional n placed on the bottom.

Glyphs can represent whole words, or individual syllables

This hieroglyphic writing system uses two methods to form words: images which represent whole words, and images which represent syllables. Most of the time, we will use glyph blocks which represent whole words. Let’s look into the syllable method first, however, for a couple of reasons:

  1. This is a good introduction to the idea of infixing and subfixing. Many of the sentence constructions you will be learning involve one or more image inside of another, or below another. This is also the case with the syllable constructions.
  2. Several of the glyph blocks are derived from the syllable blocks, so knowing them will familiarize you with images to come.
  3. Syllable constructions can always be substituted for one or more glyph blocks in a sentence, so you can use them if you haven’t yet learned a particular word glyph, or if the shape of the syllable variation lends itself better to the space you need to fill.

(consonant)vowel(n)

As you know, words in toki pona are constructed out of a limited number of possible syllables (92, to be exact). These take the form of an optional consonant (j, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, w), followed by a vowel (a, e, i, o, u), and may end with an ‘n’.

initial consonant container

To draw the syllable glyphs, we first draw the shape which corresponds to the consonant, or a simple circle if there is no consonant:

no consonant

()

consonant

j

consonant

k

consonant

l

consonant

m

consonant

n

consonant

p

consonant

s

consonant

t

consonant

w


middle vowel infix

Next the vowel is drawn as an infix in the consonant:

vowel

a

vowel

e

vowel

i

vowel

o

vowel

u

final n subfix

Finally, if there is an n, it is drawn as a subfix below:

n

n

The terminal ‘n’ is the same as the ‘n’ used as a main sign, rotated on it’s side, and “tucked under” the main consonant. Similarly, the vowels ‘i’ and ‘u’ rotate freely within the consonant main sign, and rest at the point where they are most legible.

Following these rules we arrive at the following table of possible (c)v(n) combinations: (remember: ji, ti, wo, and wu don’t exist in toki pona, so these places are blank.)

Syllabary

syllabary

a

syllabary

e

syllabary

i

syllabary

o

syllabary

u

syllabary

an

syllabary

en

syllabary

in

syllabary

on

syllabary

un

syllabary

ja

syllabary

je

syllabary

jo

syllabary

ju

syllabary

jan

syllabary

jen

syllabary

jon

syllabary

jun

syllabary

ka

syllabary

ke

syllabary

ki

syllabary

ko

syllabary

ku

syllabary

kan

syllabary

ken

syllabary

kin

syllabary

kon

syllabary

kun

syllabary

la

syllabary

le

syllabary

li

syllabary

lo

syllabary

lu

syllabary

lan

syllabary

len

syllabary

lin

syllabary

lon

syllabary

lun

syllabary

ma

syllabary

me

syllabary

mi

syllabary

mo

syllabary

mu

syllabary

man

syllabary

men

syllabary

min

syllabary

mon

syllabary

mun

syllabary

na

syllabary

ne

syllabary

ni

syllabary

no

syllabary

nu

syllabary

nan

syllabary

nen

syllabary

nin

syllabary

non

syllabary

nun

syllabary

pa

syllabary

pe

syllabary

pi

syllabary

po

syllabary

pu

syllabary

pan

syllabary

pen

syllabary

pin

syllabary

pon

syllabary

pun

syllabary

sa

syllabary

se

syllabary

si

syllabary

so

syllabary

su

syllabary

san

syllabary

sen

syllabary

sin

syllabary

son

syllabary

sun

syllabary

ta

syllabary

te

syllabary

to

syllabary

tu

syllabary

tan

syllabary

ten

syllabary

ton

syllabary

tun

syllabary

wa

syllabary

we

syllabary

wi

syllabary

wan

syllabary

wen

syllabary

win

Using the syllabary

As you look though the syllabary, you will see several syllables that are toki pona words by themselves. Here are a few:

glyph

a

glyph

jan

glyph

ko

glyph

kon

glyph

len

glyph

ma

glyph

mi

glyph

ni

glyph

mun

glyph

o

glyph

sin

glyph

tan

Combining syllable blocks

Other multi-syllable words can be created simply by adding syllables together:

glyph

toki

glyph

pona

changing size

As we progress through the following chapters, you will notice that some glyphs can change in order to fill in spaces of differing size. This is true for the syllable glyphs as well:

glyph

Time to play around

Now, as I mentioned earlier, this is a non-linear writing system, so there are a few tricks ahead for grouping several syllables into words, and words into sentences. For now, however, you might want to have some fun writing out these syllable components into linear text. You already know enough to write anything you can say in toki pona using this hieroglyphic script!