Here’s an explaration: sin la, nasin sitelen pi lipu nimi
sona (background info)
It is a beautiful and creative writing system! But its inherent flexibility can be challenging to navigate.
As a beginner to toki pona who was fascinated by sitelen sitelen, I was looking for many source documents to see how different people drew the glyphs. I then found myself wanting a method of defining a glyph based on its visual appearance, not knowing its pronunciation, and with only a rough understanding of the sitelen sitelen alphabet (or even the language’s vocabulary).
This reminded me of studying Mandarin, and using Chinese dictionaries organized by radical and stroke count — and I wondered if something similar (but also pona!) were possible for sitelen sitelen…
There are 26 “roots” (visual components);
The roots are in a particular order;
Each glyph has a unique set roots associated with it;
Each glyph is sorted according to its root-order.
This allows a dictionary user to quickly locate an unrecognized glyph within an arbitrarily-sized list of otherwise “difficult-to-order” glyphs, with only a rough understanding of the roots and ordering necessary, and without depending on any knowledge of pronunciation (of either the glyph or the sitelen sitelen “alphabet”).
- The most significant aspect of the glyph is designated the primary root. All glyphs have a primary root.
- The “most significant” aspect could be the center or the largest portion of the glyph, or a unique symbol compared to the remainder of the glyph.
- The primary root will determine the broad location of the glyph.
- Remaining aspects of the glyph may be designated additional roots.
- Additional roots are not necessary (i.e. some glyphs have a primary root and no additional roots);
- These tend to follow a pattern of “next most significant”, with allowances so that glyph sequences are unique.
- The sequence of additional roots will determine the fine-grained location of the glyph.
wan mute (roots)
My goal is to have the “roots” be roughly from simple-to-complex, and to use the established sitelen sitelen phoneme glyphs as a starting point.
The five vowel “infixes” are prominent in many of the full glyphs, so I’ve chosen to use them as the very beginning. The order is roughly: mouth; basic eye; complex eye/s; full face.
The nine consonant “bases” are next, in this rough order: dots; wrinkles; bumps; different structures.
The above fourteen phoneme glyphs don’t quite cover all the existing full glyphs, so I’ve identified some more shapes (drawing from existing sitelen pona glyphs) as common roots. These are ordered from simple/geometric to complex/anatomical.
Last but not least, two “meta” roots, notable for how they’re placed in relation to other self-contained glyphs: the “cartouche” container shape; and the “plinth” supportive-base shape.
The specific roots and order are still subject to change.
|tongue — a long/tall bump with a line; a tongue with septum|
|eye — a circle (perhaps with dot in center); a basic eye|
|eye & brow — a dotted circle with supporting line; an eye with eyeball and orbital cavity|
|closed eye — two perpendicular lines intersecting; a plus, X, crossed lines|
|anterior face — a line with dots on either site; a nose and two eyes facing the reader|
|crease? — two/three short roughly-parallel lines, adjacent to a larger feature|
|dots — two or more dots, perhaps with a nearby line/crease|
|lips? — a line intersecting (not crossing) another line|
|bucktooth? — multiple bumps with one in front of the rest|
|downward buds — multiple bumps at the bottom, with a crease|
|upward buds — multiple bumps at the top, with a crease|
|tailfan — multiple bumps at the top or side, without a crease|
|cob — a tall / narrow shape|
|stack — three stacked circles / shapes|
|||a long line, perhaps slightly curved|
|Ƨ||a backwards “S” or curvy “Z”; a swirly reversing (but not closed) line|
|||two (or more) parallel lines|
|||three (or more) short non-parallel lines emanating from a shared vanishing point|
|||a bump / curved protrusion|
|||a square / right-angled shape|
|||a sharp point / acute angle|
|◎||a hole; depth (along the dimension perpendicular to the reading plane)|
|☞||a hand with fingers / a foot with toes; an extremity with digits|
|||(meta) containing structure; shape which contains / surrounds full glyphs; cartouche / quotation /|
|_||(meta) supporting structure; wide-and-short shape which often appears under full glyphs; plinth /|
sina o kepeken e ilo ni a (try the dictionary!)
Try it out at: alxndr.github.io/nasin-pi-lipu-nimi
The first row of glyphs are the roots. Pick one or more of them, and the big list of glyphs below will update to filter and show only the glyphs which include the root(s) you’ve selected.
Then you can click on a glyph to get more info about it: pronunciation, definition, sitelen Emosi!
jan pi pona tawa mi (acknowledgements)
- jan mama mi, who showed me Egyptian hieroglyphs
- jan pi pana sona, who showed me Chinese hanzi and tolerated me
- jan Sonja, who created toki pona
- jan Josan, who created sitelen sitelen (please also read jan Josan’s acknowledgements)
- toki pona communities
- jan Su Sen, who tried to bring order to a chaotic system
- theotherwebsite’s Toki Pona Dictionary, where sitelen pona glyphs are ordered by complexity
- jan Tepu’s reference o kama sona e sitelen pona kepeken sitelen, which only uses sitelen pona
- Olaf Janssen’s sitelen sitelen renderer
- pipi pi walo pimeja’s sitelen Lasina tawa sitelen pona
ilo pi pali mi (colophon)
Definitions in the dictionary are from linku.la.
Unicode characters were identified using Shapecatcher.
Fonts / glyphs:
- The sitelen pona glyphs/roots here are Jack Humbert’s sitelen pona pona font. These glyphs are also used in the dictionary.
- The SVG sitelen sitelen glyphs in the dictionary are Sumpygump’s ported SVGs of jan Same’s glyph vectors.
- The hand-drawn sitelen sitelen glyphs are from jan Josan’s page of sitelen nimi ale.
The dictionary (and this blog) are hosted on GitHub Pages.