Tok Pisin

Tok Pisin is a creole language with mainly English-derived vocabulary. It is one of three official languages of Papua New Guinea (alongside Hiri Motu, a pidgin based on a local language, and English [or is English just a national language without official status? Some sources suggest this is the case] ). It is rapidly growing as a creole, as people grow up with Tok Pisin as their first language, for instance because it is the only shared language of their parents, or because it is simply the language that the parents use with their kids (as is the case with many Kuot parents, sadly). Tok Pisin is clearly a threat to local languages (tok ples), but the good news is that Tok Pisin is such a fun language to learn and to speak. The structure is fairly close to that of Melanesian languages in the area, and quite a bit of the vocabulary comes from the Tolai (Kuanua) language of East New Britain, so there is more to it than ‘baby English’ – if you speak it well people give you compliments! (Well, they give you compliments even if you don’t because they’re nice people, but anyway.)

You can have a look at and listen to a story in Tok Pisin that I recorded. Here is a great site about Tok Pisin (by Jeff Siegel). Listen to the Radio Australia Tok Pisin news broadcasts! There is also some information and useful links to do with Tok Pisin on Robert Eklund’s homepage, and more general info and useful links can be found on Thomas H. Slone’s page (both have extensive bibliographies; for more stories make sure to check out Slone’s One Thousand One Papua New Guinean Nights). Here is a (crude-ish) wordlist.

Last updated: Nov 2002

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