Tok Pisin is a creole language spoken in the northern mainland of Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands. It is one of the official languages of Papua New Guinea and the most widely used language in use there, spoken by over 4 million people. Tok Pisin is also more commonly called in English "New Guinea Pidgin".
The name "Tok Pisin" itself comes from the language, with "tok" meaning "talk" and "pisin" meaning "pidgin". A pidgin language is one that is created to facilitate communications between two different groups which share no common language. Since its formation, however, it has been steadily developing a more complex and distinctive grammar, and it is now considered a creole (a pidgin language that now has native speakers). The vocabulary is 5/6 Indo-European (mostly English, with some German, Portuguese, and Latin), 1/7 Malayo-Polynesian, and the rest is from Trans-New-Guinea and other languages.
Part one of this course is only intended for absolute beginners.
Tok Pisin has an interesting way of writing because its uses natural sounds. Unlike English, Tok Pisin does not contain a difficult spelling system. Instead, words are written as how they are said. Many sounds with consonants that are not pronounced in English are written without those consonants in Tok Pisin. For example: "work" (if you say it with a British or Australian accent, the "r" isn't pronounced) would be written "wok". Tok Pisin also has an absence of the "sh", "j" and "ch" sounds. These are replaced with an "s", and the "f" sound is replaced by the "p".
The Tok Pisin word for "fish" would then be "pis" and the word for finger would be "pinga" (remember, the "r" wouldn't be pronounced). For all those Spanish speakers out there, this is really how "finger" is written.
There are twenty-two letters in the alphabet.
[ a ]
[ a ]
as a in "father"
[ e ]
[ e ]
as e in "example"
[ i ]
[ i ]
as i in "issue"
[ o ]
[ o ]
as o in "code"
[ u ]
[ u ]
as u in "clue"
[ b ]
as b in "baby"
[ d ]
as d in "doctor"
[ f ]
as f in "feet" (used in some words)
[ g ]
as g in "ghost"
[ h ]
as h in "help"
[ dZ ]
as j in "jew" (used in some words)
[ k ]
as k in "kill"
[ l ]
as l in "law"
[ m ]
as m in "month"
[ n ]
as n in "name"
[ p ]
as p in "palm"
[ r ]
as in Spanish r or dd in "ladder"
[ s ]
as s in "sail"
[ t ]
as t in "top"
[ v ]
as v in "vibe"
[ w ]
as w in "weigh"
[ y ]
as y in "yes"
[ ai ]
[ ai ]
as i in "time"
[ au ]
[ au ]
as ow in "cow"
Note that that C, Q, X, and Z of the English alphabet have been removed. Their sounds are replaced by K or S, KW, KIS, and S respectively.
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. For example: he, herself, it, and this. If we replaced the nouns in the sentence "Please give the book to John" it would read "Please give it to him.". There are different types of pronouns. For now, we will look at the personal pronouns.
In Tok Pisin the pronouns are as follows, according to the simpler common pronoun chart, which has only singular and plural:
To make a pronoun plural, you add "-pela". -pela is also used in adjectives. *em and ol are not part of this rule*
Tok Pisin extends the distinction between you (singular) and you (plural). You would use yutu, when addressing two people, or yutri, when there are three people. Four or more people would be yupela.
Tok Pisin has what is called an inclusive and exclusive rule. In English, when you say something like "we are friends" in English, you wouldn't know whether that person meant you or someone else. Tok Pisin, however, has a rule for making that distinction.
we (excluding you) are kids
mipela stap pikinini
we (including you) are kids
yumi stap pikinini
we (inclusive) = yumi
we (exclusive) = mipela
Now we will look again at the personal pronoun table, expanded to include the extensions we discussed.
he/she and I
both of them
all of them
both of you
all of you
(four or more)
(four or more)
I am a kid
mi stap wanpela pikinini
You are a kid
yu stap wanpela pikinini
He is a kid
em i stap wanpela pikinini man
She is a kid
em i stap wanpela pikinini meri
It is a dog
em i stap wanpela dok
They are kids
ol i stap pikinini
There are a few things in the above examples which you haven't seen. First is the present progressive form "stap". It's the equivalent of the English "to be" with the "-ing" ending. It's used in this case like "to be", and is normally used with a verb. We will look at more of these tense markers in the next lesson.
The word "wanpela" means "one", and when needed, acts as the indefinite article "a/an".
The word "i" that appears before the verb is called a predicate marker, and it must occur in a sentence when the subject is em, "ol, or a noun. The creation of such an device in the language might be caused by the misinterpretation of "he" when used in reduplication. In simpler terms, a person might say "John, he is a fool", with "he" referring back to "John". With "i" sounding like "ee", this seems a logical explanation.
Lastly, note that nouns do not change form when used as plurals. The plural is inferred mainly from the context. We will discuss this more in the next lesson.
In this lesson we will cover some verbs and their forms. In Tok Pisin, verbs don't change from person to person (1st person, 2nd person, etc..). Also, you don't have to add any "ed" or "ing" suffixes to show tenses. Ex: mi wok nau (I'm working now) mi wok asde (I worked yesterday).
Most Tok Pisin verbs come from a root verb in English or a local language, like "kat" ("cut"), "giv" ("give"), "rit" ("read"). To make these verbs transitive (acting upon a object), the ending "-im" is added.
I cut fruit
Mi katim frut.
I give money
Mi givim mani.
I read books
Mi ritim buk.
There are some verbs that have slightly different forms when going from intransitive to transitive:
lukluk => lukim (see)
toktok => tokim (talk)
Some verbs do not get changed for transivity at all, however, such as "kaikai" ("eat"). "kaikai" also means "food" when used as a noun.
We are going to look at 4 tenses here: the present ("I do"), the present progressive ("I am doing"), the past ("I did"), and the future ("I will do"). Each of these is shown by an auxillary verb (or lack of). The present tense uses no auxillary verb, being the most basic of tenses. The present progressive tense is shown by "stap", as we learned in the previous lesson. The past tense is marked with "bin", which comes from English "been". The future tense is shown with "bai", which is a short form of "baimbai", which in turn comes from the English "by and by". There is also an immediate future tense shown by "laik". Be careful not to confuse this with the modal "laik" which will be shown later.
kat = cut
giv = give
Mi katim frut.
I cut fruit.
Mi givim mani.
I give money.
Mi stap katim frut.
I am cutting fruit.
Mi stap givim mani.
I am giving money.
Mi bin katim frut.
I have/had cut fruit.
Mi bin givim mani.
I have given money.
Bai mi katim frut.
I will cut fruit.
Bai mi givim mani.
I will give money.
Mi laik katim frut.
I am about to cut fruit.
Mi laik givim mani.
I am about to give money.
These tense markers interact with the predicate marker "i" in different ways.
Jon i bin wok asde
John worked yesterday
Jon bai i wok tumora
John will work tomorrow
In the first sentence, you can see that it works pretty much like you would expect, with the verb tense marker bin coming after the i. However, in the second sentence, the i comes after the tense marker bai. This is probably because of the way such phrases would be said in English. We would say (in a simplified way) "John he worked yesterday" and "John, by and by, he works tomorrow". Now note an even bigger change in the next sentence.
Jon i wok i stap nau
John is working now
In the above example, the verb (wok) goes before the auxillary verb (stap>), and an extra i is added.
Lastly, we have pinis, which equates to the English "finish" and always goes after the verb.
Exercise A: Translate to English:
1) Yupela bai i ritim tripela buk.
2) Em i katim i stap tete.
3) Mipela givim mani.
4) Mi bai i raitim tripela pas.
5) Em inap ritim wanpela buk.
6) Ol i wok i stap tete.
Exercise B: Translate to Tok Pisin:
1) You (sing) will give money.
2) She cut fruit yesterday.
3) He must read a book now.
4) I will cut fruit today.
5) We will see John tomorrow.
6) They (plural) read the letters.
Solution of Exercise A:
1) You (plural) will read three books.
2) He cut frut today.
3) We give money.
4) I will write three letters.
5) She can (is able) read a book.
6) They (plural) work today.
Solution of Exercise B:
1) Yu bai i givim mani
2) Em i bin katim frut asde.
3) Em i mas ritim wanpela buk nau.
4) Mi bai i katim frut tete.
5) Mipela bai i lukim Jon tumora.
6) Ol ritim pas.
Prepositions are short words that describe a relationship between other words in a sentence. Most prepositions tell where or when, or show possession. Some common prepositions in English are "on" ("on the table"), "in" ("in the house"), "at" ("at the store"), and "over" ("over time").
Tok Pisin only has two prepositions. The first one we saw in the previous lesson to show possession: "bilong" meaning "belong". It also can be used to mean "of" or "for". The other preposition is "long", and it is used for basically everything else (at, in, on, to, with, until etc.). "long" also means "tall, long", so don't confuse them.
As we learned in the previous lesson, adjectives are formed by adding "-pela" to certain words. Now we will show you how to compare things using those adjectives.
First, we have need the adjective to show the comparison, like "longpela" meaning "tall, long". In English, we might say that someone is "taller", but since Tok Pisin doesn't change the form of the adjective to show comparison, we need to use a qualifer instead. So instead of saying "taller", we would say "more tall". In Tok Pisin, "more" is shown by "moa". This would go after the adjective.
Em i longpela moa long papa bilong em.
She is taller than her father.
"papa bilong em" = "her father". This is using the method of showing possession you learned in the previous lesson.
"long" = "than". This is the other preposition that you learned in this lesson.
We can show that a comparison is greater using reduplication of "moa" into "moa moa". This is like saying "much more".
Em i longpela moa moa long papa bilong em.
She is much taller than her father.
A comparison to show that some is "even" more of something is achieved by adding another modifer: "yet", which equates to English "even, yet". This is placed after "moa".
Em i longpela moa yet long brata bilong em.
She is even taller than her brother.
Note: brata bilong em" = "her brother".
Beyond a comparison, we have the superlative, which says that something is the most. In English, for example, comparing two heights would be "taller", but the among all heights, only one is "tallest". This is shown in Tok Pisin with the contruction "long ol".
The numbers 1-10 in Tok Pisin have two forms. The first form is used in forming other numbers and in numerical situations, like telling time. The second form is when they take on the ending "-pela" and act as adjectives. "siro" (zero) has no such adjective form.
To form the other numbers, a sort of math is involved. The adjective form is used to describe number forms, like saying 11 = one ten plus one = wanpela ten wan. Some numbers also have single words to describe them.
Exercise A: Translate to Tok Pisin:
1) The dog is bigger than the cat.
2) The girl is even bigger than her mother.
3) My mom is shorter than me.
4) I am smaller than my mom.
5) The girl is even smaller than her sister.
6) School is even more important than work.
Solution of Exercise A:
1) Dok i longpela moa long pusi.
2) Pikinini meri i longpela moa yet long mama bilong em.
3) Mama bilong mi i sotpela moa long mi.
4) Mi liklik moa long mama bilong mi.
5) Pikinini meri i liklik moa yet long susa bilong em.
6) Skul i bikpela moa yet long wok.
End Of Part One
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