What would be the best choice of niqqud to transliterate toki pona vowel sounds using Hebrew? I'm trying to use the niqqud that would be closest to what is normally used in Hebrew. Should 'e' be אֶ or אֵ? Should o be וֹ or אֹ? Should 'a' be אַ or אָ? Is there a real difference between them or is it important? I would normally omit the niqqud, since toki pona is minimalist & somewhat ambiguous anyway, but I would prefer to use the most phonetically accurate niqqud, when I do use them. There is stress on the first syllable, but no long vowels. would it be unusual to write 'pana' as ַפָנה to show that the first 'a' is stressed?

Normally I would write 'seli' as סלי, but with vowels would סֶלִי or סֵלִי be better?

toki would be טוקי, but should I want to use vowels, should I use טוֹקִי or טֹקִי

I did find this tool for transliterating to hebrew, but it ignores niqqud altogether. 'O' is always written as 'ו', & 'E' isn't written at all, even at the end of a word. At the beginning of a word it's just 'א'.

The vowel sounds are: a: father e: get o: more i: peel (I would use either ִא or אִי. Is there a difference?) u: food (I would use וּ. Would it be better to use אֻ instead?)

1 Answer 1


Here are a few ways to deal with the problem of marking the vowels unambiguously:

Style 1 - normal Hebrew orthography

Considering the fact that there are no length distinctions or gemination, a transliteration into Hebrew would normally use exclusively these diacritics to represent the vowels:

a אָ *
e אֵ ** 
i אִי  
o אוֹ  
u אוּ

* add ה at the end of a word; and after letters other than א, add א in the middle of a word

** add ה at the end of a word

In addition, on נ (the only possibly coda in Toki Pona) the diacritic נְ would be used (except as last letter of word). Stress isn't normally marked even in vowelized Hebrew (apart from liturgy or texts for learners), and it's entirely unnecessary in Toki Pona, since there is no phonemic stress.

The advantage of this is that it follows ordinary conventions and is most easily intelligible to someone reading in Hebrew. The disadvantage is that implementing this kind of orthography is far from algorithmic and includes unnecessary information in the spelling.

Style 2 - minimalistic Hebrew orthography

Since Toki Pona is a minimalistic language, I think that a different transliteration convention would better suit it, to avoid redundancy in writing it. There is precedent for a more minimalistic transcription in the convention used for transliterating, e.g., Akkadian into Hebrew. Modifying it to suit Toki Pona's vowels, we get something like this:

a אָ  
e אֵ  
i אִ  
o אֹ  
u אֻ

Style 3 - Yiddish orthography

A third option, if you want to minimize use of diacritics, is to follow Yiddish spelling conventions. The only required diacritic is to distinguish between the two forms of א. The Yiddish convention of using וו instead of ו as a consonant can be safely ignored in Toki Pona. And actually, since there are no o/u minimal pairs in Toki Pona, you could get rid of all diacritics if you instead choose to use ו for both vowels, at the price of losing some information (style 4).

a אַ or א
e ע or ע
i אי
o אָ or ו
u ו

Sample differences

Roman x Hebrew x Minimal x Yiddish x 4-vowel
a     x אָ      x אָ       x אַ       x א
akesi x אָקֵסִי   x אָקֵסִ    x אַקעסי   x אקעסי
anpa  x אָנְפָה   x אָנפָ    x אַנפאַ    x אנפא
mije  x מִייֵה   x ֵמִי     x מייע    x מייע
mute  x מוּטֵה   x ֵמֻט     x מוטע    x מוטע
seli  x סֵלִי    x ִסֵל     x סעלי    x סעלי
toki  x טוֹקִי   x טֹקִ     x טאָקי    x טוקי
wawa  x וָאוָה   x וָוָ     x ואַואַ    x ואוא
  • !פוֹנָה אָ thanks!
    – jastako
    Feb 10, 2020 at 3:05

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