Tok Pisin

Tok Pisin, Pidgin English

  • Yumi mas lainim ol pikinini bilong yumi long rit na rait long Tok Pisin pastaim.
    We should teach our children to read and write in Tok Pisin first.
  • Em i save Tok Pisin, o nogat?
    Does he understand Tok Pisin or not?


Tok Pisin, also known as New Guinea Pidgin, Pidgin English and Neo-Melanesian, is a pidgin language which began through contact between coastal and island PNGans and European traders and whalers in the 19th century. It developed when PNGans were taken to work as indentured laborers in the sugar cane fields of Queensland and Samoa. It spread when the laborers returned to their villages or worked as plantation or mine laborers within PNG. As well as enabling PNGans to communicate with Europeans, it enabled people from different PNG language groups to communicate with each other. Linguists think that the structure of the language is derived from an Austronesian language of New Ireland or the Gazelle Peninsula. About 80 percent of the vocabulary is estimated to be derived from English; other words come from German, Malay, Polynesian languages, the earlier China Coast pidgin, or from PNG languages.

Today about half the population speak some version of Tok Pisin and for some in the urban areas it is a first language. It is one of the three official languages. A ”standard” Tok Pisin is often used in radio and television broadcasts, national and provincial parliaments and public debates. The New Testament was published in Tok Pisin by the Evangelical Lutherans in 1969 and a complete Tok Pisin Bible was produced by the PNG Bible Society in 1989. A Tok Pisin newspaper, Wantok, has been published since 1970. Members of the urban middle class who are also fluent in English is often heavily Anglicized; radio announcers and politicians making public speeches often slip from Tok Pisin into English, and vice versa. Village dialects of Tok Pisin differ not so much in grammar and vocabulary as in pronunciation, which may be considerably affected by local languages.

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