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Tok Pisin

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Tok Pisin is a language used as a lingua franca in Papua New Guinea, where it is one of the four official languages.

Basic Grammar[edit | edit source]

Verbs[edit | edit source]

There are basically two types of verbs in Tok Pisin: transitive and intransitive.

  • In general, transitive verbs end in -im. Example: kisim (sampela samting), take, receive something
  • In general, intransitive verbs do not end in -im. Example: slip (long nait), sleep (at night)

Nouns[edit | edit source]

Nouns are usually not marked for plural in Tok Pisin. The particle ol is used to pluralize if the plural isn't already obvious from context. Example: ol grinpela kar, “green cars”.

Adjectives[edit | edit source]

There are basically four types of adjectives in Tokpisin:

  • Class 1 adjectives have the suffix -pela in attributive position, and also when they follow the copula. Example: bikpela, big. Bikpela haus, A big building, Haus i bikpela, The building is big.
  • Class 2 adjectives have the suffix -pela in attributive position, but they usually lose it when they follow the copula. Example: kolpela, cold. Kolpela wara, Cold water but Wara i kol, The water is cold.
  • Class 3 adjectives do not have the suffix -pela. Example: liklik, small. Liklik haus, A small building, Haus i liklik, The building is small.
  • Class 4 adjectives do not have the suffix -pela either. Unlike other adjectives, they stand after the noun in attributive position. Example: nogut, bad. Tok nogut, bad words, insults.

Tokpisin adjectives can be either attributive or non-attributive. The attributive type is marked by the attributive morpheme -pela; the non-attributive is unmarked.

Semantically, the attributive form qualifies the noun; it attributes characteristics about the noun, while the non-attributive form states the being; the status of the noun.

Syntactically, the attributive precedes the noun, while the non-attributive follows the noun. A few adjective forms like liklik, and nogut, are considered “non-stabilized forms” (Paradigms have been designed to use to explain some of these linguistics phenomena). Tokpisin has some of these variations still in existence.

Many of these variations are acceptable and are variously marked by the cognition of the speaker of the time about the noun. When someone says nogutpela tok, the person is attributive in his thought. When he says nogut tok [not “tok nogut”?] the person is non-attributive.

Many non-attributive forms of Tokpisin are compound words now and must not be taken literally. For example: tok nogut – “swear, using bad language”; tok i nogut – “unacceptable message”; tokim nogut – “improperly said”; nogut tok – “bad words”.

Prepositions[edit | edit source]

There are two basic prepositions in Tok Pisin: bilong and long.

  • bilong is used for attribution. Examples: haus bilong mi, My home; Han bilong diwai, Arm of a tree; branch.
  • long is used as a universal preposition for other meanings.

Nevertheless, there is one other self standing preposition: wantaim, with.

There are also all kinds of compound prepositions like ananit long, under; insait long, in; antap long, on, above, etc.

Adverbs[edit | edit source]

Articles[edit | edit source]

Tok Pisin does not use any definite article.

  • wanpela is used as indefinite singular article, if needed.
  • ol is similar to an article: it's put before the noun to indicate plural, if (needed? and) not otherwise obvious. Note that ol is also the third person plural pronoun.

More about articles.

Pronouns[edit | edit source]

Personal pronouns[edit | edit source]

Pronouns in Tok Pisin
Singular Plural
1st mi mipela₁, yumi₂
2nd yu yu ol
3rd em ol

₁ The -pela in mipela is shortened and pronounced as pla.

₂ Yumi is used when referring to both the person being talked to and the speaker. In contrast, mipela is used when speaking about a group including the speaker that excludes the listener.

Interrogative pronouns[edit | edit source]

Interrogative pronouns are question words like who, what, when, where, and why.

Who - Husat

What - Wanem

When - Wanem taim (lit. ”what time.”) Often shortened to wataim.

Where - We (also westap, the shortened form of ”we i stap...”, lit. where is...)

Why - Wasmara

Getting started[edit | edit source]

Other resources[edit | edit source]