There are well-known and notable differences in speed for natural languages: While a fast language like Spanish is spoken at a speed of about 6–7 syllables per second, a slow language like German, English, or Mandarin is spoken with 3–4 syllables per second. Language speed correlates with the amount of information carried by a syllable: The more information in the syllable, the slower the language speed.

Since Toki Pona has only a limited number of very simple syllables, limiting the amount of information that they can carry, and it seems to have a speech community as well: Is it spoken at a fast pace like Spanish (or even faster) in real life? Or is it spoken at a slow pace like English?

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    Do you have any sources for the information in your first paragraph? While different languages are produced at different speeds, claiming this speed is correlated with "complexity of allowed syllables" is not something I've seen substantiated, particularly not by the examples you give -- Mandarin has by far the simplest allowed syllable structure of the languages you name here, and is the slowest (slower, in the records I've seen, than German or English, which have very permissive, complex syllable structures).
    – Sparksbet
    Aug 28, 2018 at 17:49
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    As for mandarin, the language has phonemic tone, which distinguishes both pitch and contour. So words have to be lengthened a bit to make this obvious. Also, the large number of tones increases the possible syllable count, so words tend to be short. Like English, Mandarin has a rather large number of one-syllable words. So it doesn't take too many syllables to say things.
    – user348
    Aug 28, 2018 at 22:17
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    @Sparksbet: Here's a quick reference to Scientific American: scientificamerican.com/article/fast-talkers
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Aug 29, 2018 at 10:18
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    @jknappen, this article does not attribute the difference in speed to the "complexity" of each syllable as you do, but to the amount of information conveyed per syllable -- something more in line with what I've read in other sources than what you've claimed in your question. If that's what you actually meant by "complexity", I would suggest rewording things (and also considering how that would affect your hypothesis about Toki Pona).
    – Sparksbet
    Aug 29, 2018 at 13:22
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    @Sparksbet: I see "information" (which is measurable) as a proxy for complexity, but it is of course possible to construct some kind of counter-examples ... I'll reword the question.
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Aug 29, 2018 at 13:28

1 Answer 1


Based off the audio file from this website, and the audio files from this website, we can infer that Toki Pona is a "fast" language. It uses 6 - 8 syllables / second, except with punctuation, where you delay for the same time as English.

Some Youtube videos stick to the contrary, but their speed is slow to make it easier for nonexperienced Toki Pona speakers.

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