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Tok Pisin

Tok Pisin (tok means "word" or "speech") is the creole spoken in Papua New Guinea. It is one of the official languages of Papua New Guinea and the most widely used language in that country, spoken by about 2 million people as a second language. Tok Pisin was also called Melanesian Pidgin English, Neo-Melanesian, Hiri Motu, or Police Motu.

Tok Pisin is used to some extent in the media and for government issues, though English is still preferred in these contexts. In some schools Tok Pisin is the language of instruction in the first three years of elementary education.

Its vocabulary is about 5/6 Indo-European and 1/6 Austronesian languages; its grammar is built on a simple pidgin grammar, with various irregularities.

The verb has one suffix, -im to indicate transitivity (luk, look; lukim, see). But some verbs, such as kaikai "eat", can be transitive without it. Tense is indicated by the separate words bai (future) and bin (past). The progressive tense is indicated by the word stap - eating is kaikai stap.

The noun does not indicate number, though pronouns do.

Adjectives usually take the suffix -pela when modifying nouns; an exception is liklik "little". Liklik can also be used as an adverb meaning "slightly", as in dispela bikpela liklik ston, "this slightly big stone".

Pronouns show person, number, and exclusion:

Reduplication is very common in Tok Pisin. Sometimes it is used as a method of derivation; sometimes words just have it. Some words are distinguished only by reduplication: sip "ship", sipsip "sheep".

There are only two proper prepositions: bilong, which means "of" or "for", and long, which means everything else. Some phrases are used as prepositions, such as long namel (bilong), "in the middle of".

Table of contents
1 Vocabulary
2 References
3 External links


Tok Pisin can sound very colourful in its use of words, which are derived from English (with Australian influences), indigenous Melanesian languages, German (part of the country was under German rule until 1919) and even Portuguese. (However, Tok Pisin is often ridiculed as 'baby talk' or 'broken English'.) For example, the word for 'moustache' is mausgras - literally 'mouth grass'. A sentence in Tok Pisin, once displayed in an aeroplane, read:

Sapos baus bagarapim, rausim fols tits bilong yu.
If the aeroplane crashes, remove your false teeth.


External links

A bibliography of Tok Pisin dictionaries, phrase books and study guides
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Tok Pisin / Pidgin / English Online Dictionary
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site will serve as an aid for those who wish to learn a bit of Tok Pisin.

Revising the Mihalic Project
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Collaborative internet project to revise and update Fr. Frank Mihalic's Grammar and Dictionary of Neo-Melanesian. An illustrated online dictionary of Tok Pisin.

Tok Pisin page at the SIL ethnologue

Radio Australia Tok Pisin service