Tok Pisin

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Tok Pisin

Spoken in

Papua New Guinea
speaker 120,000 native speakers

approx. 3-4 million second language speakers

Official status
Official language in Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea Papua New Guinea
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


The Creole language Tok Pisin (sometimes even pidgin English , in the technical literature New Guinea Pidgin and English Melanesian Pidgin , Melanesian Pidgin English (MPE) , Neomelanesian / Neo-Melanesian ) is the most widely used lingua franca in Papua New Guinea . It is a variant or further development of the Melanesian pidgin , which also includes Bislama on Vanuatu , Pijin on the Solomon Islands and Torres Creole on the islands of the Torres Strait ( Australia ).


The language is mainly used for communication between members of different language communities, but - unlike most pidgin languages ​​- it also has an increasing number of native speakers. The language is composed of English and Melanesian elements, and there are also great German influences. There are several dialects , such as the Waigani-Pidgin around Port Moresby , which is more strongly influenced by English . Tok Pisin has evolved from a pidgin language to a creole language , although this development is still ongoing, as the native speakers are still a minority among all speakers, but this group is growing rapidly - this is accompanied by the extinction of many languages ​​with only a few speakers.

There is a greater similarity and historical relationship between the Tok Pisin spoken in the island provinces of Papua New Guinea and Bislama in Vanuatu and Pijin in the Solomon Islands .

Some words in this language are e.g. B .:

Tok Pisin English German
apinun good afternoon good afternoon
misis Term for "wife" / white women
sik sick, ill ill
house sik hospital hospital
gude good day good day
kaikai food eat
bulut blood blood
tenkyu Thank you thank you

History of language

The existence of a pidgin language based on English is known even before the Germans took possession of Papua New Guinea. Whaling and merchant ships with crew mostly from the Pacific islands used or possibly brought the language to the country. An early form of Tok Pisin was already known during the German colonial rule (see Bismarck Archipelago and Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land ) under the derogatory terms tokboi ( servant language , from English "talk boy"), Kanakenssprache or "English".

Since it was not until the 1880s that New Guineans and Trobrianders were increasingly employed as personnel on merchant ships and the early missionaries hardly noted pidgin speakers before, it can be assumed that the early form of Tok Pisin only spread as a lingua franca from this time on. The copra trade , which was expanding rapidly at this time and which resulted in increased traffic in the Pacific, was also beneficial for the spread of the language .

The Tok Pisin language is changing rapidly, making communication between generations and between rural areas and urban centers more difficult.


Like other pidgin languages , Tok Pisin has a very simple grammar. There is no conjugation or declination . There are only two past tenses and a future tense , whereby the verb does not change, but the time is expressed by a preceding or following word ( past tense : "bin", perfect tense: "pinis" (postponed), future tense "bai", ie "Mi bin go" = "I went", "mi go pinis" = "I went", "bai mi go" = "I'll go").

A grammatical peculiarity of the language are the two forms of the personal pronoun in the 1st person plural: in some variants of the language there is an inclusive we and an exclusive we . However, this is a phenomenon that was probably adopted or retained from the Polynesian languages. In the exclusive form, those addressed are not included, in the inclusive form they are. Take the German we know as an example

  • exclusive form: Mipela i save (We: only the group the speaker is speaking for knows.)
  • inclusive form: Yumi save (We: Both the group the speaker speaks for and the addressees know.)

The inclusive form yumi is not the same in all regions, however. It is rarely used in the language of the highlands.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Tok Pisin  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations