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The madly evolving Tok Pisin


ADELAIDE - It is pretty clear that those of us who 50 years ago learned what now must be called archaic Pidgin are now hopelessly out of date.

Words like “bilong" have long since been contracted into "blo" and, so it seems, "narapela" has been contracted into "nala".

David Kitchnoge's reference to the changing meanings of "mipela" (now "mipla") and "yumi" simply underline the point.

Pidgin MurphyThe great authority on Pidgin in my time was former kiap John Joseph Murphy.

I carried his little book around with me for a long time, constantly referring to it as I worked on increasing my command of the language.

I was, in truth, never very fluent in Pidgin because I was almost always working with coastal Papuans who spoke either Motu or, more often than not, pretty reasonable English.

I guess it is no surprise that Papua New Guineans are busily moulding Pidgin to suit modern needs.

Pidgin HeltonAfter all, English is still busily accumulating new words and expressions at a furious rate of knots.

We even have the previously silent "w" in words like known and shown showing an entirely unexpected resurgence in use, thus "no-wen" and "sho-wen" are replacing the venerable "no-n" (known) and "sho-n" (shown).

Incredibly, even the silent "k" in words like knight and knoll is making a comeback, thus "k-nite" and "k-noll" are sneaking back into the lexicon.

Quite why this all happens has lexographers stumped - it just does happen and no amount of bleating about it by purists makes any difference.

Quite what our great-great-grandchildren will make of our use of language is anybody's guess.

But I think that William Shakespeare, perhaps the English language's greatest inventor of new words and expressions, would be delighted.


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Fancis Kabano

So true Keith Jackson...other words like 'husait' has been shortened to 'husat'. Some English words have also crept in to pidgin as well......especially technical, legal or other words that have no pidgin equivalent. I find I have to be descriptive to explain the what the message is to be communicated.

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