Personal Pronouns in Tok Pisin

The principal pronouns in Tok Pisin are:

Tok Pisin Refers to English
mi the speaker I, me
yu the person spoken to you
em the person or thing spoken about he, she, it
him, her, it
yumi the speaker and person(s) spoken to we (incl.), us (incl.)
mipela the speakers and person(s) with him and not including the person spoken to we (excl.), us (excl.)
yupela the persons spoken to you (pl)
ol the persons spoken about they, them

There are four important differences between these Tok Pisin pronouns and English ones:

1. There are no separate pronouns for he, she, it in Tok Pisin. These are all em. Thus Em i go long taun can mean either he went to town or she went to town;

2. In most carefully spoken varieties of Tok Pisin all the subject pronouns (except mi and yu) are followed by the special particle i which occurs between the pronoun and the verb, for example as in:

  • Mi wokabaut.
  • Yu wokabaut.
  • Em i wokabaut.
  • Yumi i wokabaut.
  • Mipela i wokabaut.
  • Yupela i wokabaut.
  • Ol i wokabaut.

In other varieties this particle is regularly omitted so that Em i wokabaut becomes Em wokabaut.

This particle is a most important part of the special structure of Tok Pisin and is usually referred to as the Predicative Particle or Predicate Marker. Its position relative to other items in sentences will be illustrated and discussed as they are introduced later. For teaching purposes it will be used after all pronouns except mi and yu in the first few units until learners get used to it. Then no further attention will be paid to it and it will be left out or used depending on context, speed of utterance and/or other factors operating at the time;

3. Most Tok Pisin speakers distinguish between yumi and mipela which are both represented as we in English. To distinguish the Tok Pisin forms in English yumi is said to be we (inclusive), that is we, including the person spoken to and mipela is said to be we (exclusive), that is we, excluding the person spoken to. Thus Mipela i go long taun means We (that is, my friends and I but not you) are going to town whereas Yumi go long taun means You and my friends and I are going to town;

4. Tok Pisin pronouns do not change form like English ones do when they occur as objects of verbs or prepositions (like long or bilong). Thus whereas in English one says He sees me and not He sees I, in Tok Pisin one says Em i lukim mi where mi is the same form as one uses in the beginning of sentences like Mi lukim em I see him.

Pronouns: dual and trial

In Tok Pisin it is customary to refer to the number of persons or things involved in any action, especially if there are only two or three. This is done by adding the numerals tupela and tripela to the pronouns mi, yu, em, yumi. Thus the set of pronouns given in the last table should now be expanded to include at least the following:

Tok Pisin Refers to English
mitupela the speaker and the person with him but not including the person spoken to we (two) (excl. )
yumitupela the speaker and the person spoken to we (two) (incl. )
yutupela the two persons spoken to you (two)
emtupela the two persons spoken about those (two)
mitripela the speaker and the two persons with him but not including the person spoken to we (three) (excl.)
yumitripela the speaker and the person with him and the person spoken to we (three) (incl.)
yutripela the three persons spoken to you (three)
emtripela the three persons spoken about those (three)

Reference to four, five , six, etc. can ‘be made in the same way by adding fopela, faipela, etc.

Provincial government of Papua New Guinea

The decentralisation policy

The provincial government system was initially introduced in the late 1970s after protracted discussions within government circles as to whether PNG, after gaining independence from Australia in 1975, should continue with a centralised political structure, or consider a much more complex decentralised version. The Constitutional Planning Committee (CPC), the group that comprised elected MPs and technocrats who were commissioned to oversee the drafting of PNG’s constitution, unanimously pushed for decentralisation as it was deemed a better ‘fit’ for PNG with the added novelty of being a design that was inclusive of ordinary people in contrast to a centralised system that projected exclusive control from an isolated central point. Accordingly, the decentralisation policy was introduced amidst widespread reservations. The reservations were by no means baseless. Given the truncated colonial history of the country, a modern state was superimposed on the diverse population from the 1950s, and strengthened after the first national elections in PNG in 1964. Eleven years later, independence was granted at a time when nation building and state building were profound dual challenges. Secession was expressed by Bougainville and the Papuan region as groups of people sought to protect their respective identities within the uncharted seas of political change. So when the decentralisation policy was first suggested, contrasting fears were expressed by sections of society. The policy could either work against nation building efforts – and worse still, perpetuate the disintegration of the country if groups of people were to relish this opportunity and push for a break away from PNG. Or, the decentralisation structure could accommodate the deeply diverse population by granting some degree of freedom to groups to run their own affairs while remaining under the umbrella of PNG. Either way, the challenge was always going to be colossal for a country that had just emerged from a stateless form.

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Overview of corruption and anti-corruption in Papua New Guinea

Corruption in Papua New Guinea is widespread and endemic, penetrating all levels of society. This situation is reflected in Papua New Guinea’s poor performance in most areas assessed by governance indicators. Official corruption and the misappropriation/theft of public funds are seen as the most significant governance issues of the country.

Papua New Guinea’s governance structure is rather comprehensive and the government has voiced its ambition to fight corruption. Anti-corruption efforts are nevertheless ineffective due to poor implementation of existing laws, considerable resource gaps and confusion over the overlapping responsibility of anticorruption and law enforcement agencies.

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Telecoms Boom in Papua New Guinea

Years of neglect of network infrastructure meant that, until relatively recently, Papua New Guinea experienced only minimal coverage by landlines and even less by mobile networks. In mid-2007, total teledensity was just four per cent countrywide and zero in the majority of rural area. The sector was liberalised in 2007, and Irish company Digicel entered the market soon after. Prices dropped quickly, and innovative retail models and advertising campaigns meant that consumer uptake was swift. Mobile networks have expanded exponentially over the past five years to now cover some 75 per cent of the country’s population. Phone ownership has increased apace, and some estimates suggest that over 30 per cent of the population now has a mobile phone, dwarfing the number of fixed-line connections. Mobile phone penetration is growing fast — from just 1 per cent in 2005 to 35 per cent in 2011.

Remote Digicel Sales

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Kinship Terms in Tok Pisin

Even today Papua New Guineans stand under a host of kinship obligations which would seem oppressive to most Europeans and North Americans. Some traditional societies reckon kinship through the father, some through the mother, and some through both parents. Similarly residence and gardening rights may pass through the father, the mother or both. In some societies where it is believed that women sap men’s strength and endanger men’s health, husbands and wives did not live in the same house until forced by Christian missionaries to do so (and even today often live in separate rooms of a shared house). In some societies, certain relatives have an obligation to provide pigs, shell money and other forms of wealth (these days including increasingly large amounts of cash) to help a man pay the brideprice (braitprais; mani bilong baim meri) custom requires him to give his prospective wife’s family. The basic Tok Pisin kinship terminology is given below.

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