The Language With Only 123 Words

Toki Pona, the world’s smallest language


Tue, Jul 21st, 2015 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

On The Atlantic, Roc Morin looks at Toki Pona, which at 123 words in total is the world's smallest language. Created by Toronto-based Sonja Lang, the idea is to reduce "symbolic thought to its most basic element," while still managing to easily communicate ideas with "less noise" but "deeper insight."

That metaphorical process is at the heart of Toki Pona, the world’s smallest language. While the Oxford English Dictionary contains a quarter of a million entries, and even Koko the gorilla communicates with over 1,000 gestures in American Sign Language, the total vocabulary of Toki Pona is a mere 123 words. Yet, as the creator Sonja Lang and many other Toki Pona speakers insist, it is enough to express almost any idea. This economy of form is accomplished by reducing symbolic thought to its most basic elements, merging related concepts, and having single words perform multiple functions of speech.



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