lesson 8 - time and place



󱥫 tenpo

time, duration, moment, occasion, period, situation

you'll usually hear people say that tenpo means "time." but what does that mean? what even is the abstract concept of time? this definition isn't very useful, so a different angle I suggest people take is to look at tenpo as either a situation or a duration. tenpo could be that one time I robbed a bank, or all the times I cooked with shmalts. tenpo could be a minute, or an hour, or an eon (1 billion years). tenpo can be the time when the sun shines, or the cycle it takes for the earth to rotate around the sun, or for the earth to rotate such that the sun goes away and comes back. tenpo can be the time when it's dark, the time when it's cold or warm, the time it takes for the moon to go through all its phases, the time it takes for markets to set up and disband a few times a week, the time when we work, the time when we sleep, the time when we travel, or the time when we arrive. tenpo can talk about the abstract concept of time, but usually it is used to talk about specific events, situations, and durations.


󱤅 anpa

bowing down, downward, humble, lowly, dependent; bottom, lower part, under, below, floor, beneath; low, lower, bottom, down

anpa refers to the space (or sometimes object) below something. For example, "anpa supa" is the space under a table. "anpa kasi" is the space under a plant. anpa can also refer to qualities of defeat and shame, such as beating someone in a game of chess. You can describe the loser as anpa, and you can use anpa as a verb to mean "beat." anpa can also talk about social stratification and hierarchy. A lower class person can be a jan anpa.

󱥒 poka

hip, side; next to, nearby, vicinity

poka is at its core is anything, either an object or location, that is nearby or to the side of something else. This could be the space next to someone, or at the side of someone, such as the lefthand side of a walking person. But this can also be part of an object, such as someone's hips or a car door. Extended into the metaphorical space, poka becomes extremely useful for talking about relationships. toki ponists tend to place people and objects they have relationships with in proximity with them, so one might describe a friend as poka and a loose aquaintence as not poka. two things don't have to be physically next to each other in order to be "lon poka." my uncles live in aotearoa and I live in the USA on either Dakota or Lenape land depending on the time of year, but I would still describe our relationship using poka dispite the physical displacement.

󱤸 monsi

back, behind, rear

The semantic space of monsi contains things that are behind another thing or the back part of a thing. The caboose of a trains is monsi. The space behind a building is monsi. A person's back is monsi. monsi is relative, so its semantic space will always depend on what object it is in relation to.

󱥟 sinpin

face, foremost, front, wall

sinpin reffers to objects that face directions. walls can easily be sinpin, and so can human faces or any of the front part of an animal. the part of a building that faces the road can be sinpin. sinpin is not used as much as it should be and I encourage speakers to explore its semantic space more. If you have any further usages that aren't mentioned here, please let me know!

sinpin can't be extended into a metaphorical space to talk about time. "tenpo sinpin" might mean future or past to people from different cultures, so in order to use it like that you'd need to build it up by explaining the metaphor. For example, if you framed yourself as facing the past and walking backwards, you could even use "tenpo sinpin" to talk about the past!

󱤏 insa

centre, content, inside, between; internal organ, stomach

insa talks about things inside of things. Commonly, this is used to describe a location. The location inside of a car is insa. It can also be used to describe objects that are inside of things. Someone's organs are insa. insa doesn't need to be contained completely, it can just mean "in between." A book in the middle of a bookshelf is insa. The space between two city buildings is insa. It can be used more abstractly too. When compared to a head, a mind is insa. In the context of good and bad, insa can be neutral. When compared to hot and cold, insa can be lukewarm. If anything is being framed as inside of something else, it falls under the semantic space of insa.

󱥚 sewi

area above, highest part, something elevated; awe-inspiring, divine, sacred, supernatural

sewi embodies a very powerful conceptual metaphor that exists within toki pona. In toki pona, upwards and high things and divinity are connected. These are two seperate ideas that sewi connects by refering to both of them. Things that are religious or sacred can be sewi. For example, a religion could be "nasin sewi," religious art can be "sitelen sewi", and a god, practitioner, or religious wisdom holder can all be "jan sewi." sewi on its own can easily refer to that which is divine or worshipped. But sewi very simply talks about the space above something. "sewi kiwen" can mean "the space above the rock" or "the top of the rock." Keep in mind that all of these examples can work in the other sense of sewi. "nasin sewi" can mean an upwards direction, "sitelen sewi" can be the top painting of two paintings, and "jan sewi" can be someone who just climbed a big mountain. And of course, "sewi kiwen" could be the divinity of a rock.



the place words express location.

you can combine them with the preposition 󱤬 lon to say "at (place)"

(...) 󱤬 󱥚
(...) lon sewi
~ up
~ above
~ in the sky


󱤑󱤧󱤬 󱤅󱥭
jan li lon anpa tomo
~ a person is under the house

󱥴󱤧󱥩󱤬 󱥚󱥍󱦗󱥢󱥞󱦘
waso li tawa lon sewi pi soweli sina
~ birds are flying above your pet

󱤴󱤘󱤂󱥔󱤉 󱥟󱥍󱦗󱥭󱥞󱦘
mi ken ala pona e sinpin pi tomo sina
~ i can't fix the front of your house


you say the time by describing it, often using the word 󱥫 tenpo.

just like with place words, you can combine descriptions of time with the preposition 󱤬 lon to say "at (time)"

(...) 󱤬 󱥫󱥍󱦗󱤖󱥤󱦘
(...) lon tenpo pi kama suno
~ in the morning
~ at the time of the sun's arrival


󱤴󱥩󱥞󱤬 󱥫󱤖
mi tawa sina lon tenpo kama
~ i go to you in the future

󱤑󱤧󱥉󱤬 󱥫󱥁
jan li pali lon tenpo ni
~ the person is working at that time
~ the person is working now

󱤴󱥵󱤼󱤬 󱥫󱥐
mi wawa mute lon tenpo pini
~ i was really confident in the past

󱤴󱥷󱤂󱥉󱤬 󱥫󱤬
mi wile ala pali lon tenpo lon
~ i don't want to work right now

󱥴󱤧󱥩󱥚󱤬 󱥫󱤄
waso li tawa sewi lon tenpo ale
~ birds always fly
~ birds fly at all times


translate from toki pona to english

soweli wawa li kama anpa

~ the confident animal has become defeated

kasi mute li lon monsi pi tomo mi

~ lots of plants are behind my house

mi ken tawa sina lon tenpo poka

~ i can go to you soon

mi wile lon poka sina tan ni · mi olin e sina

~ i wanna be close to you because i love you

lipu li lon tenpo ale

~ the document will always exist

translate from english to toki pona

there's something under that coin

~ ijo li lon anpa pi mani ni

your face is divine

~ sinpin sina li sewi

bad things happened here in the past

~ ike li kama lon ni lon tenpo pini

the bugs are speaking in the debate hall

~ pipi li toki lon tomo toki

fish wanted to fly. now they don't

~ kala li wile tawa sewi lon tenpo pini · ona li wile ni ala lon tenpo lon

read sitelen pona


~ mi ken ala lon poka sina tan weka sina

~ i can't be at your side because you're far away


~ ijo li tawa tomo sewi tan ni · ona li wile kama pona · ona li wile kama wawa

~ someone goes to the holy building because they want to improve and become strong


~ sina musi e mi lon tenpo pini

~ you were funny to me in the past


~ soweli li lon monsi sina

~ the animal is behind you

~ there's a creature on your back