"ma Awisona" is incorrect

In this web page, I would like to talk about something that mildly annoys me.

I live in the U.S. state of Arizona, and most people who speak Toki Pona would tokiponize this place as "ma Awisona pi ma Mewika." However, I will maintain that this is not correct; the correct tokiponization is "ma Alisona pi ma Mewika."

There is a very good reason for changing the "w" to an "l": the English name "Arizona" comes from the O'odham name "alĭ ṣonak," which tokiponizes to "ma Alisona." "Alĭ ṣonak" is still used as the O'odham word for the land. Because the O'odham people are native to Arizona, and because Toki Pona uses endonyms (names in the native language) as the basis for place names, the correct name should be "ma Alisona."

These points doubly apply to people who tokiponize it as "ma Ewisona," since the "a" in O'odham is pronounced more similarly to the Toki Pona "a" than "e".

This also works for other places with indigenous names, although it does get very difficult in some instances. Arizona is easy because "ma Alisona" can be anglicized back into Arizona with no issues. However, somewhere like, say, New Mexico would be tokiponized as "ma Jotojajoso" (based off of the Navajo name "Yootó Hahoodzo"). I'm not sure where the line is between common understanding and respect for the native names is... and if native names are always to be used, it isn't always clear which ones should be used. I used Navajo in my example, but I could've just as easily used Zuni or Keres, which are more closely tied to New Mexico specifically.

These are probably questions for other people to answer, though, since they don't really apply to Arizona! There is one very clear tokiponization for Arizona which respects the native language and is also universally understood, and that is "ma Alisona."

Lastly, many people might say that this is all just some prescritivist mumbo jumbo, and that the way that most people pronounce it should be the way that it gets tokiponized. Most Arizonans would pronounce it like "Awisona" or "Ewisona," so why not just write it like that? This is a fair argument, and usually I would agree, but I think it's okay to be a little prescriptivist if there is good reason to do so. I wouldn't consider minor variations in grammar and spelling to be a good reason, but renaming indigenous lands based off of foreign pronounciation probably is a good reason.

Anyways, thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this text and will start using "ma Alisona" more in your Toki Pona!