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World's simplest language with less than 150 words is enough to understand the meaning of life

Without any grammatical complexities, this conlang has now gained widespread attention and has thousands of speakers.

World's simplest language with less than 150 words is enough to understand the meaning of life
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay, Toki Pona

As per the Global Language Monitor (GLM), as of 2011, the English language had more than 1,009,614 words and every 98 minutes a new word was created. So, the number must have probably risen with all the new additions. Sometimes, despite having over a million words, we can't truly express or understand the meaning of life. However, with just around 137 words, Toki Pona is known to be the world's simplest language that conveys the meaning of life well enough like other languages but with significantly fewer words and phrases, as per IFL Science.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Nothing Ahead
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Nothing Ahead

Canadian linguist Sonja Lang invented Toki Pona in 2001. "It was my attempt to understand the meaning of life in 120 words. There are now thousands of speakers and 137 essential words," mentioned Lang on Toki Pona's official website. Lang's invention was recognized as a world language in 2022 with ISO 639-3 adopting the code "tok" for Toki Pona. As per the science-based media channel, Toki Pona called into play some other languages from around the world like Dutch, English, Finnish, Mandarin, Cantonese and so on. Though many other conlangs exist already, Toki Pona stands out because of its most uncomplicated vocabulary.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Sonja Lang (@sonjalang78)


 

This one-of-a-kind language caught the attention of the popular language and etymology enthusiast On YouTube Rob Watts (@RobWords), who tells people, "where the words we use come from and why we say the things we say." At the beginning of the video, Watts questioned, "Can a language really function with just 120 words?" and proceeded to explain the minimalism of Toki Pona. He highlighted that the name Toki Pona itself means, "good/simple language," and its dictionary has nearly 11000 sample translations. Watts pointed out that Toki Pona doesn't have articles like 'a,' 'an,' or 'the,' and also is free from grammatical tenses. The verbs don't have different forms like in English or many other languages.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Sonja Lang (@sonjalang78)


 

Most importantly, one need not wonder what grammatical genders to use in Toki Pona. For instance, learning German or French gets complicated because people find it difficult to identify the difference between masculine, feminine or neutral words. In Toki Pona, there are just three pronouns - mi (I or we), sina (you or y'all) and ona (he, she, it and they) and it also applies to the possessive forms of all these pronouns. "So the biggest way in which Toki Pona saves on vocabulary is what’s remarkable about it. Toki Pona has very few words but each one of them can be translated into a multitude of things. They are broad concepts. It’s like how our word 'fruit' covers loads of different varieties of fruit and can be used to refer to any one of them," said Watts.

"All content words can serve as objects, verbs and modifiers - like adjectives - depending on where they are in a sentence. And you can just line up the modifiers to gradually refine the idea," Watts explained. In fact, Lang spoke about the nuances of using Toki Pona in her book, "The Language of Good," which according to Watts serves as the Bible for Toki Pona speakers. Calling it a "quirky" language Watts delved much more into the other aspects of Toki Pona and in every way this language seemed to have simple straightforward solutions using just a few words. So, for those who wish to learn a new language but are worried about its grammatical complexities, Toki Pona is a boon.



 

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