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The Toki Pona Baby Sign-Language Manifesto

[^translation-note]: This page has been translated into Toki Pona and English.

Related pages: [note]: - Toki Pona Sign-Language Flash Cards

The Problems with "Baby ASLs"

There is no "true" baby sign-language. Most gestures from baby sign-languages are haphazardly adapted from American Sign-Language (ASL).

ASL was not designed for babies. Baby ASLs demand dexterity that babies don't have.

ASL offers the full power of human expression via hand gestures. Baby ASLs offer cramped communication with no framework for expression.

Toki Pona Sign-Language is Easy and Expressive

Toki Pona is an entire language you can learn in a weekend.

There are ~140 words in Toki Pona. Its grammar is scant. But its minimalism is its strength.

Toki Pona's simplicity shines in its sign-language: you can communicate with recognizable signs and a few reusable gestures.

These reusable gestures create a lego-like structure for the mind. Toki Pona recycles and recombines concepts. For example, "telo kili" means "juice" and "telo walo" means "milk", so you may deduce that "telo" means "liquid". You may further deduce that "kili" means "fruit".

Toki Pona's sign-language is a perfect platform for baby sign-language:

  1. Its gestures were selected for simplicity. To say "sleep", rest your hand on your head like a pillow. To say "food"/"eat", make a gesture like eating a sandwich.
  2. Its gestures are designed for humans with limited dexterity (i.e. babies and busy adults).
  3. Its small vocabulary forces adults to repeat a limited set of reusable concepts. For example, the gesture for "banana" is "long fruit"; both "long" and "fruit" are reusable ideas.
  4. Its small number of concepts can be recombined into a surprisingly complex set of ideas. In Toki Pona, "blanket" is commonly "len lape" ("sleep fabric") or, to avoid confusion with pajamas, "len pi supa lape" ("fabric of horizontal sleep surface").
  5. Toki Pona's gestures form a foundation for all spoken languages (e.g. English). You can combine familiar Toki Pona gestures to explain unfamiliar English vocabulary.

nasin pi toki pona luka lili

[^translation-note]: sina ken lukin e ni kepeken toki pona anu toki Inli.

ike pi toki Inli luka lili

nasin wan pi toki luka lili li lon ala. toki Inli luka li pana ike tawa toki luka pi jan lili.

toki Inli luka li ike tawa jan lili. toki Inli luka li ike tawa luka lili.

toki Inli luka li pana e toki ale kepeken luka taso. taso la, toki Inli luka lili li pana ala e toki ale e nasin toki.

toki pona luka li ken pona e toki

toki pona li toki lon. tenpo suno tu la, sina ken kama sona e toki pona.

toki pona li jo lili e nimi e nasin nimi. taso la, toki pona li wawa tan lili.

sina sona e toki pona luka la, sina sona e pona pi toki pona. toki pona luka li pona tan ni: sina ken toki kepeken nimi pi nanpa lili.

nimi luka pi toki pona luka li pali e ijo musi sike lon sona sina. toki pona li kepeken sike e sona. sina sona e nimi "telo walo" la, sina sona e nimi "telo kili" la, sina kama sona e nimi "telo".

toki pona luka li ken kepeken pona sama toki luka pi jan lili:

  1. nimi pi toki pona luka li pona. nimi luka "lape" li lukin sama lape. nimi luka "moku" li lukin sama moku.
  2. nimi pi toki pona luka li pona tawa jan pi luka ike en jan lili en jan pali.
  3. jan li toki sike e nimi pi nanpa lili la, jan li toki sike e sona pi nanpa lili. sina sona li nimi pi "kili palisa" la, sina sona li nimi "kili" li nimi "palisa".
  4. toki pona li jo e sona lili. taso la, sina ken pali e sona suli kepeken sona lili. nimi "len" en nimi "lape" li pali tu e nimi "len lape".
  5. nimi pi toki pona luka li pali e nasin tawa toki uta ale. sina ken pana e sona pi toki ale kepeken toki pona luka.