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Who is this page for?

Well, hopefully I can turn it in for one of my linguistics classes and get credit, but that's not why I made it. This is for people who want to learn Tok Pisin! I relentlessly tell everyone constantly to at least try it. might as well have a resource for it. My previous lexicography project was so successful I decided I'd try it with a different language! We shall see how it goes. Most of all, this page is for me. To pull up on my phone. It's nice keeping my notes on a website where the url is as simple as lipamanka dot gay forward slash tok dash pisin.

What is Tok Pisin?

Tok Pisin (lit "pidgin speak") is a language spoken in Papua New Guinea. It is an English Based Creole. According to Growing up with Tok Pisin by Geoff P Smith, Tok Pisin originates from slaves in Australia and Samoa, two closeby oceanic areas. Slaves on plantations didn't have a language in common, so they used the framework of thier various indigenous languages and vocabulary from the English colonial presence to create a pidgin that would serve as a mother language to a dozen odd creoles in the Pacific Ocean.

Creolization is a process in which during language aquisition, the children of speakers of a pidgin consolidate and unify the pidgin into a creole. It's a very complex process that isn't well understood by linguists for a few key reasons. the first descriptions of most creoles in the pacific was done by missionaries, not linguists, who are very biased. This is the case with tok pisin. Additionally, creolization has only occured historically under unfathomably horrible human rights violations that are undeniably unethical.

Papua New Guinea (see below) is a country in Oceanea, and takes up about 1% of Earth's landmass. It's home to at least 4 million speakers, but all estimates of population have a wide margin of error and it's likely far higher. It is the most linguistically diverse country in the world by far, with over 850 separate languages (not dialects; languages). It's also one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse countries in the world, with a similar number of ethnic groups. This is because of The Highlands, which is the name of the mountain range that goes across the island. (It should be noted that Papua New Guinea is only the right half of the island New Guinea. This page discusses Papua New Guinea, but not the left half of New Guinea, which is part of indonesia. It's similarly linguistically diverse, but I'm only talking about the country Papua New Guinea.)

map of Papua New Guinea from wikimedia commons map showing where Papua New Guinea is on a globe. Papua New Guinea is colored green.

There are some important linguistic ideologies in Papua New Guinea, each of which conveniently has a name in tok pisin!

- tok ples (literally "place talk") is a local language. Not a specific one. It's any local indigenous language. Because Tok Pisin acts as a lingua franca (spoken by a majority of the people in the country, especially when communicating with people from other communities with a different indigenous language), specific cultural ideas unique to an ethnic group might use a term directly loaned from the local tok ples. So if you were to go to papua new guinea with perfect knowledge of all the words in Papua New Guinea, you may still have to pick up additional information from context unless you were just buying food at a market.

- wantok (literally "one talk") is a term to describe one's kin. It implies an ethnic group through a shared language. To be "wantok" with someone is to be part of their ethnic group (which, depending on where you are, may be fluid in PNG. It's really diverse). The most popular tok pisin newspaper, podcast, and radio program all have "wantok" in the name.

What is the syntax of Tok Pisin?

Tok Pisin like has syntax or something.

What words are in tok pisin?

In this section, words will be presented in order of frequency. You may use command/control + F to search for english words. The dictionary entries follow my semantic spaces dictionary format for toki pona with a few adjustments: because idiomaticy in phrases is a thing in tok pisin (i.e. what words show up next to each other), I will be listing several idiomatic and consistent expressions with each word in its definition. This is a living document that serves as my notes for tok pisin. I will be taking notes directly into this document.

This section will also contain function words and explain their syntax. If the syntax section becomes redundant, I'll remove it! Indeed, in a language like tok pisin, where all the syntax depends on which words are being used, syntax may very well be part of the lexicon. I'm not sure what the needs of this project are yet! I may delete paragraphs like this. CHAOS!!! yu mas wok yet long lukim long hia! (stay tuned!)

AT THE MOMENT all of my data on the lexicon is in a google form. I will work on transferring it here! Once I have some data on here, I'll explain my methodology and sources for my data. For the time being, NO LEXICON FOR YOU! Sorry.


Etymology: likely either "he" or "is" | Function Word

"i" is the most common word in tok pisin! It is very similar to "li" in toki pona. Usage varies, but most speakers use "i" to mark a predicate in a third person sentence (that is, where the subject isn't a first person or second person pronoun). [full list of words and phrases that i usually doesn't follow pending!] "i" also has some utility in subordinate clauses that I HAVE YET TO UNDERSTAND FULLY. It shows up in a lot of idiomatic phrases, none of which I am going to list here for the time being.

Note that some verbs, like "bai," can replace i completely. For these words, I'll probably specify this in their definitions. For the time being, words I've found that that fit this rule are: inap, bai. If a verb starts with "i" then it's more likely to do this.

"em i go" - she goes, he goes, it goes.
"wanpela i retpela" - one is red.


Etymology: "all" | pronoun, adjective

"ol" functions in a few ways: First, it is the third person plural pronoun. [note to self: create a vector graphic for tok pisin pronouns and put it above]. Second, it serves as a plural modifier. While optional, it is used frequently to mark that there is more than one of something.

"ol dok i no stap long haus" - The dogs aren't in the house.
"ol i stap long haus" - they are in the house.


Etymology: along | preposition

Often shortened to "lo" in text chats, "long" is one of four prepositions in tok pisin that sees frequent usage by itself. Besides long, bilong, olsem, and wantaim, all other "prepositions" are almost always (but not always) followed by "long" to mark the following word as a prepositional object. It covers a wide range of meanings, including location, purpose, destination, and many other things.

"long" also appears in at least half of the idiomatic expressions in Tok Pisin, so including them all here would be rediculous. long is very versitile, but the good news is that there's very little it can't do! So you don't really need to memorize all of its functions. If it's a preposition and it isn't one of the other three, it's probably long. When learning other words, learn if long is frequently used with them! Don't worry, I'll make this abundantly clear moving forward.

"mi stap long haus" - I'm in the house. (Note that in order to say "X is in Y," you need the copula "stap." You can't just say "mi long haus.")
"mi go long haus" - I'm going to the house.
"mi kam long Niu Yok" - I'm from new york (note that)


Etymology: "belong" | preposition

bilong is pretty simple! In essence, it means "of." Bilong is also almost always used inside of a noun phrase. It's used to form all posessive constructions. It's used in a lot of lexicalized phrases, many of which I'll provide in the definitions of other words here in this dictionary. "bilong" is usually pronounced "blong" in all settings save for the most formal ones, and is frequently shortened to "blo" in informal text chats.

"Jisas i got bilong mi" - Jesus is my god.
"papa bilong mi" - my father.
"teritori bilong kantri" - national territory.
"man bilong meri" - husband.

bilong also has Some common idiomatic expressions. Here is one of them for now.
"mi bilong Amerika" = "I'm from the USA"


Etymology: "this fellow" | demonstrative/determiner

This is the demonstrative in Tok Pisin. It has no proximity distinction, unlike english "this that yonder"; it can mean all three of those. Like many languages, Tok Pisin employs "dispela" frequently where english would use "the." Tok Pisin doesn't hae a word for the. "Dispela" is never required, but in some cases it might be more natural to use it than to not. A good way to think about it is: if English didn't have a word for "the," in what cases would you use "this" or "that" or "yonder" instead? Which cases would you not? This is a good place to start if you want to figure out when "dispela" is used.

"dispela dok i stap long yunivesity" - This dog is at university.


Etymology: "something" | noun

"samting" is Tok Pisin's "thing" word. Anywhere where you might use "thing" (or "something") in english, you might use "something" in Tok Pisin. It's used for a lot of concepts that don't have a word in Tok Pisin, whatever they might be, especially between people from different ethnic groups describing specific ethnic terms, especially in the phrase "dispela samting." It also covers the semantic space of "substance."

"i gat sampela samting i no stret" - something's wrong.
"Wanem ol samting inap helpim yumi?" - what features would help us?
"dispela samting i no stap gut" - the substance is unstable.


Etymology: "you" | Pronoun

Singular second person pronoun, i.e. English "you" but it can only refer to one person. Does NOT take i when the subject of the sentence.

"yu gutpela" - you're awesome.
"kat bilong yu i stap long haus bilong mi" - your cat is at my house.


Etymology: "him" | pronoun

The third person singular pronoun. "em" has no animacy or gender connotations, so it can be used for any person of any gender and any inanimate object. It's just as frequently for women as men.

"em i gutpela tru" - she's so cool
"meri i tokim long em" - The woman talks about him
"dok i ranim em" - the dog chases it


Etymology: "all (the?) same" | preposition, conjunction, function word

Olsem does a lot of things!
First of all its meanings, it's a preposition, one of the big four main preps in Tok Pisin. It carries the meaning of "similar to" or "as" or "like."
Second, it's a conjunction, similar to english "thus," "that," or "and so."
Finally, olsem is used in plenty of idiomatic phrases with other words. Similarly to long, it's important to learn where olsem shows up. I won't be listing any here because I'll list all of these contexts as we move further with the dictionary.

"mi olsem mama bilong mi" - I'm like my mother (note that olsem can be used as a verb and a preposition at the same time without a copula like "stap.")
"Ol i luk piksa bilong taun olsem renbo" - The town was painted like a rainbow
"em i bin kisim skul olsem dokta" - He trained as a doctor
"Dispela tok i hatwok tru, olsem na lukim ol piksa" - This sounds super complicated, so look at the diagrams.


Etymology: "and" (through metathesis!) | conjunction

Simply the conjunction "and." Used in the subject, with multiple verbs, in transitive objects, and the objects of prepositions

"jon na luk i stap long Goroka" - John and Luke are in Goroka (a place in the Papua New Guinea Highlands)


Etymology: "not" or "no" | adv

negates the verb. Goes before the verb, and after "i" if it's present. As an interjection/response to a polar question, "nogat" is used much more than "no."

"mi no laik go long pisin" - I don't want to go to the pool


Etymology: "got" | intransitive verb

this word means "have." It has a similarly large semantic space to English. "i gat" is frequently contracted to "igat" in written expression but is pronounced the same.

"man i gat" -

"i gat" or "i no gat" can start a sentence and have a similar meaning to "there is" in english, declaring that there is something there. I've seen "gat" omitted here, but very rarely.
"i gat bikpela dok long dispela haus" - there is a large dog in the house.