How Tok Pisin Language was Created?

Tok Pisin is a language that partially descended from English but it is not actually English. The language is Tok Pisin, an English based creole language. Sometimes Tok Pisin is referred to as Pidgin or Pidgin Language. Tok Pisin is one of the official languages of the country called Papua New Guinea, which is located in the south western Pacific Ocean just north of Australia. Papua New Guinea’s  other official languages are English(which is not spoken by most of the people)  and Hiri Motu. But among them Tok Pisin serves as the most common lingua franca and a lingua franca is certainly useful in Papua New Guinea. Because it’s the most  linguistically diverse country on the planet. Over 800 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea. A country of  just around 8 million people with so much linguistic diversity, Tok Pisin is frequently used for communication between people of different linguistic backgrounds.

Development of TOK PISIN

Look at the name of this language Tok Pisin , where Tok means Language. But the word TOK comes from English Word Talk. it also means speech, word, message, news etc.The majority Tok Pisin words are from English but are used with different meanings,or with a wider range of meanings.

The second word PISIN comes from PIDGIN.But probably developed  from the English word BUSINESS. 

TOK PISIN is also sometimes called TOK BOI. The word BOI comes from English word BOY. But actually refers to someone who is an indentured labourer, servant,or slave of colonial Europeans. Because their bosses or masters referred to them  as boys. 

Tok Pisin began as a Pidgin Language on the plantations of German Samoa between 1880 and 1914 when laborers from Papua New Guinea were brought over. 

Now the question is, We said Tok Pisin is English based Creole Language. But why is it in German territory? 

Here’s why…..

Well laborers from Solomon Island and Vanuatu had already been working on plantations in the Queensland colony in present day Australia and they had already developed an English based Pidgin Language. Wait. What do we mean by Pidgin language? In short they needed a common language for work. So, adopted a small English vocabulary and used the grammar of their Melansian Languages  to connect the words together. 

In this way a Melanesian English based Pidgin Language arose in Queensland. Some of these Pidgin Speakers from Vanuatu and Solomon Islands later worked in German Samoa alongside the New Guinean labourers, using their Pidgin as a lingua franca.  People from all of these places brought the Pidgin Language home with them,where it became widely used as a lingua franca and became creolized. Meaning it became spoken as a native language by some people and is now used for all aspects of their daily life. Not only for the limited functions of the Pidgin Language. 

Till this day the form of “Pidgin” spoken in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Island are quite similar. Though they definitely diverged into their own distinct varieties. 

After Pidgin Language became creole languages they are technically not pidgin languages, but they are referred to as “Pidgin” in the three countries. 

Now let’s examone Tok Pisin and see what it’s like? 

Tok Pisin Vocabulary

As an English Based creole Language Tok Pisin got most of its vocabulary from English. But words of English  origin are usually pronounced quite differently. Following phonological rules inherited from Austronesian Languages of Melanesia. For example “BROTHER” is pronounced as “BRATA”. The words “Enough” become “Inap”, “Before” become “Bepo”, “Shark” become “Sak”, “Stand Up” become “Sanap” in Tok Pisin. 

Words of English origin are generally used differently in Tok Pisin. For example,  “Ples” from the English word Place. In Tok Pisin ples means village,hometown area or region. Then “Tevel” from the English word “Devil”. Tevel means soul, shadow, reflection or image. 

Since Tok Pisin vocabulary stems from a small English   vocabulary oftentimes one simple word is used to cover a whole set of synonyms in English,or a category of items. For example: “Gat” from a English word “Got” or “Have Got” This means to or to possess. 

Some words have expanded beyond synonyms to cover a wider range of meanings. For example: “Stap” from the English word “Stop”. In Tok Pisin “Stap” means rest, stay, to be located somewhere, remain or to be in progress. 

With this word it might be a bit harder to wrap your head around it’s different meanings. If you stop somewhere then you are there at the place, you are remaining there, you are staying there, you are situated there. 

The meaning of to be in progress stem from the meaning of remaining. Because the action is reaming in progress. For example: “Pen bilong mi stap long wanem hap?” This means “Where is my pen?”

Not all Tok Pisin  vocabulary comes from English. Some words come from German. Since Samoa was under German control and parts of PNG were under German control when New Guineans returned.For example: “Rausim” means to remove , to get rid of and this word is from German. 

Some vocabulary is also from Malay because of contact with Bahasa Indonesia on the Island of New Guinea and contact with regional Malay languages. 

Surprisingly some vocabulary of Tok Pisin is also from Portuguese because of early Portuguese contact with Melansia as early as the 16th century. 

Tok Pisin is like the English roots of much of its vocabulary are obvious but it’s also quite obvious that Tok Pisin is not English. Its grammar is very different and even its English based vocabulary is used quite differently. Tok Pisin is a language in its own right. It’s used in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea in TV, radio broadcasts and it’s used everyday as a lingua franca throughout the country. Though there are  books written in Tok Pisin it’s currently not  used much as a literary language. Though some people think that it can and should fulfil the role as well. But with English also being an official language and the language of schooling other people think that English should  alone remain the formal and literary language.


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