The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Tok Pisin

Tok Pisin (tok means "word" or "speech", pisin means "business") is the creole spoken in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is one of the official languages of PNG 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 or Neo-Melanesian.

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 exclusiveness/inclusiveness:

Singular Dual Trial Plural
1st exclusive mi
(he/she and I)
(both of them, and I)
(all of them, and I)
1st inclusive - yumitupela
(thou and I)
(both of you, and I)
(all of you, and I)
2nd yu
(you two)
(you three)
(you four or more)
3rd em
(they two)
(they three)
(they four or more)

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".


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

  • bagarap - break down (literally bugger up)- very widely used in PNG
  • balus - airplane (literally pigeon)
  • haus tambaran - traditional house, house with artifacts of ancestors or for honoring ancestors; tambaran means "ancestor spirit" or "ghost"
  • kamap - arrive, become
  • meri - woman
  • pikinini - child (from Pacific Pidgin English , but ultimately from Portuguese influenced Lingua Franca)
  • raus - get out (from German)
  • sapos - if (from English suppose)
  • save - know (from Pacific Pidgin English , but ultimately from Portuguese influenced Lingua Franca)

The official Tok Pisin language Wikipedia can be found at


External links

Last updated: 05-07-2005 15:55:28
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04