Speaking Mini Kore

Mini Kore is a 120-word subset of the Mini language designed to be a complete language in itself.

Despite having vastly fewer words than Mini, Mini Kore is, in many ways, a more difficult language to speak: Because of the sparsity of the vocabulary, each words takes on expanded metaphorical meanings that can be difficult to master.

As such, Mini Kore is intended to be used more as a proof of concept of how small a language can be than as a medium of everyday conversation.

Mini Kore is an intellectual descendent of Toki Pona, but distinguishes itself from its progenitor through its richer and more comprehensive grammar and its more useful vocabulary.

I. Background

Mini Kore began as a relexification of Toki Pona: I started with TP’s vocabulary and replaced each word with a more recognizable global derivation. I very quickly proceeded to ax a large portion of the words and replace them with something else. The vocabulary that emerged from this chrysalis looked little like its larval predecessor. Less than half of Mini Kore’s vocabulary has remained the same.

Here’s a sample of some of the changes:

  • TP’s myriad animal words became the single word animale. The words for fruit, tree, or plant became the single word veji.
  • All of the specific color words were removed. The way to name colors in Mini is via metaphor: The color blue, for instance, is selo kolo (sky color). The color green, veji kolo (plant color).
  • I added the numerals 0–5, just enough to make a useable number system. The number 127 is rendered as uno duo mano an duo (one two five-and-two).
  • Only 5 prepositions: de, en, go, kon, sama which are from, in, to, with, like/as, respectively.
  • Two demonstratives, di (this/here) and da (that/there). Nearly all natural languages have at least two. And for good reason. Unless you intend to physically point at things, having only one demonstrative, as TP does, doesn’t really work in practice. (I know this though trial and error, from actually trying to speak uni-demonstrative version of Mini with a friend and failing to understand each other.)
  • Some other additions: toma (to take, choice), duro (problem, hard), santi (religious, God), fami (family, relative), rapi (speed, rapid), peso (piece).

In a micro-language, every word counts. Each word should ideally expand the range of discourse as much as possible while being as distinct as possible from other words. Choosing such words is an art.

After a lot of trial and error, I eventually figured out a good method for creating new words: My approach was to try to first start with an extremely common word and then to layer on top extra meanings connected via metaphor. A simple example is the Mini Kore word eleki. This word means electric, which you might have guessed. But reasoning metaphorically, it also means digital, online, energy, or energetic. Similarly, the word jura has a base meaning of law but can also mean instruction, rule, or governmental, or when used as a verb, govern or reign. (Mini words are large and contain multitudes!)

By making extensive use of metaphor and compound words, Mini Kore can express a surprisingly large amount of vocabulary with its 120 words, including most discussion topics from everyday life. What Mini Kore lacks, however, is technical vocabulary of any sort. You will never be able to discuss Kantian philosophy, file a quarterly financial report, or write a prescription in Mini Kore. In fact, you may have severe difficulty in describing any single subject in depth.

Speaking Mini Kore means speaking like a caveman. Precise terminology is replaced with crude physical description. Words like bird, tower, or salsa in English are Minified as selo animale (sky animal), baton loke (cylinder place), or fogo veji vasa (fiery vegetable liquid). People are not beautiful or intelligent; they merely ave a bon mira (have a good appearance) or pensa bon (think well). One cannot run or cook; one can only jalan rapi (walk fast) or fogo a manja (fire the food).

Despite these limitations, Mini Kore still functions as a speakable language and has been battle-tested in a way that most constructed languages have not: by being spoken by myself and my (unfortunate) family members and acquaintances. The vocabulary and range of discussable topics may be quite limited, but the language works: people can successfully communicate in Mini Kore.

II. Language Differences

Because of the limited vocabulary, there are substantial usage differences between Mini and Mini Kore.

Metaphorical vocabulary

Each word in Mini Kore takes on additional metaphorical meanings to compensate for the sparseness of the vocabulary:

Mi i boka a tera, go rason ke mi i en mira go animale roka figura.=> I mouth the earth, for the reason that I am looking for animal rock figures.
=> I dig, because I'm looking for fossils.

Bob i da kore e mala en mebi ke si mini man i en go a loke de mega savi.
=> Bob would heart bad in the case that his small persons were going to the place of big learning.
=> Bob wouldn't like it if his children were going to college.

Alisa i da go a mone loke, pero si i ave a duro kon si mira boka, an si no kan toma da a si go-go uti.
=> Alice would go to the money place, but she has a hardness with her see-mouths, and she can't take her go-machine there.
=> Alice would go to the bank, but she has a problem with her eyes and can't drive her car there.

Stricter syntax

To cut back against the increased ambiguity, stricter syntax is observed in Mini Kore:

  • No particle dropping
  • Minimal compounding (nearly every word in Mini Kore is a compound already, so using an additional word formation mechanism is not necessary)
  • Only 5 prepositions are used (de, en, go, kon, sama): other prepositions most be formed as compounds, e.g. via (through)=> en via de…

Subordinating conjunctions

Mini Kore only has one way to introduce a dependent clause: the word ke.

All subordinating conjunctions are formed as compounds:

because      go rason ke...         for the reason that...
if en mebi ke... in the possibility that...
although en pero-pero de ke... in spite of that...
while en sama o tempo ke... in the same time that...
when en tempo ke... in the time that...
where en loke ke... in the place that...
En mebi ke tu i fini manja a tu veji, mi-ale i kan go en vasa.
If (in the case that) you finish eating your vegetables, we can go in the water.
Mini feme i fini ludi kon ludi man, go rason ke si i vole toma a sono.
The girl finishes playing with the doll (play-person), because (for the reason that) she wants to listen to music.

Common adverbs

Many common adverbs in Mini are replaced with more general words in Mini Kore:

English   Mini Kore   Miniback        afa       baka
forward ante fore
only pero solo
out/away de eki
still/yet kipa ankora
already ante deja
almost * kasi
more ma ma
less mini ma meno
* several options: ma u mini ma (more or less), ale pero (all but)

Mini Kore also uses many temporal expressions to replace individual words in Mini:

Mini Kore         Mini        Englishgo ota tempo     gen         again
go ale tempo tuju always
en no tempo ni never
en mini tempo sun soon
en di tempo nun now
en da tempo den then

Numbers

Mini only uses the numerals 0–5.

The numbers 6–9 can be formed through addition (six is “five and one”). Larger numbers are read off digit by digit (in base 10).

nulo  zero, nothing
uno one
duo two
san three
fo four
mano five, hand
6 mano an uno
7 mano an duo
8 mano an san
9 mano an fo
10 uno nulo
18 uno mano an san
-25 kali duo mano
1093 uno nulo mano an fo san
2/3 duo de peso san
3.14 san rondo uno fo
5+2 mano an duo
6–3 san de mano an uno
4/5 fo de-i peso de mano
3*9 san kon mano an fo
4⁵ fo go mano
Mi i ave a duo nulo sole rondo.
I am 20 years old. (I have 20 sun-circles.)
Tempo a ke?
What time is it?
Uno uno an san nulo en ante de senta.
11:30 am
Mano en afa de senta
5 pm
Sole uno
Monday (sun one)
Sole mano an duo
Sunday (sun five-and-two)
Mano de luna san
5th of March (five of moon three)

III. Sample texts

Mi-Ale Fami

Our Father

Mi-ale fami,
Ke e en selo,
Tu name e santi.
Tu tera i veni,
Tu vole i veni,
En tera, sama selo.
I dona go mi
En di sole a sole pan,
An i dona de a mi mala,
Sama ke mi i dona de
A mala de ota man.
I no kapo go kali a mi,
Pero i toma de mala a mi.
Tera, poten, an mega name
E Tu, go ale tempo.

Baton Loke de Babel

Tower of Babel, Genesis 11:1–9

En di tempo, ale tera i ave a uno pale. Sama ke mui man i go kon sole veni o jalan, si-ale i veni mira a no leva o loke en Shinar, an i veni viva da.

Si-ale i pale go si-ale-sama a “I veni! Mi-ale i ja make a fogo kolo o roka, an i fogo a si.” Si-ale i uti a fogo kolo o roka en loke de no raro o roka an kali duro vasa en loke de roka duro vasa. Afa, si-ale i pale a “I veni! Mi-ale i ja make a viva loke kon uno baton loke ke go a selo, go rason ke mi-ale i kan make a name go mi-ale-sama. En ota mebi, mi-ale i da e en su mui loke en via de tera.”

Pero Santi i de veni unda an i mira a viva loke an baton loke ke si-ale i de en make. Santi i pale a “En mebi ke si-ale i kan make a da, en tempo ke si-ale a uno man ke pale a uno pale, nulo, ke si-ale i begin make, i go e no mebi. I veni! Mi i go-go unda an i duro a si pale, go rason ke si-ale i kan no savi a si-ale-sama.”

Afa, Santi i dona en mui loke en via de tera a si-ale. Si-ale i no kan fini make a baton loke. Da a rason ke name a Babel — ke Santi i duro a pale de ale tera.

Zarathustra i Pale sama Da

Thus Spake Zarathustra, prelude, part 9

Luse i ave veni go mi: Mi i vole a man ke viva, an no viva o man ke mi i kan toma kon mi go loke ke mi i vole — no. Pero, mi i vole a viva man ke kan go en afa de mi, go rason ke si-ale i vole go en afa de si-ale-sama — an ke kan go a loke ke mi i vole go.

Luse i ave veni go mi: Zarathustra i pale no go mui man pero go bon man! Zarathustra a no animale man, an no man ke make a boka de viva fini. Mi i ave veni go rason ke mi i toma de de animale junta a mui man. Mui man an animale junta i veni kore kon mi e fogo: animale man i name a Zarathustra a mala man ke toma de man ota. Mi i no vole a animale man u man ke make a boka de viva fini. Mi i no pale go mui man go ota tempo: Mi i ave pale go no viva o man go fini tempo.

Mi i go savi a man ke make, man ke toma de tera a veji, an man ke kore a mega bon: Mi i demo go si-ale a selo kolo luse an jalan de leva go Supa Man.

Note de Jalan de Bon

Dao De Jing (道德经), chapter 1

Jalan, ke kan jalan, 
A no vere jalan.
Name, ke kan name,
A no vere name.
Kon no name,
Si a begin de tera an selo.
Kon name,
Si a fami de ale kosa.
Rason,
Si kon no vole
I kan mira a santi.
Si kon vole
I kan mira pero a ropa.
Di duo kosa
I veni de sama o begin,
Pero i ave a ota name.
Sama o name a kali kosa.
Kali de kali,
Si a boka go santi.

More resources at minilanguage.com

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store