Jan Wohlgemuth
Grammatical categories and their realisations in Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea
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1. Introduction

This work is to be seen in the connection of two seminars, which had the following titles: "on the necessity of grammatical categories" and "language contact and language development by the example of the English language history", both seminars took place in the summer semester 1997 under the direction of H. Franke M.A.

The first mentioned seminar had the subject to examine the different grammatical categories and their presence or developments in different languages of all families. It should be analyzed in what respect a linguistic implementation of different categories is at all necessary, in order to ensure smooth and at the same time economic communication free of ambiguities. The other seminar was the first part of a series dealing with English language history, which focused around the special features of the development of a language in contact with other languages.

I would like to use the questions and results of both seminars in this work, in order to examine on the basis the language Tok Pisin, whether grammatical categories from the parent languages were taken over, which are mandatory and which are optionally expressed, with which grammatical means this occurs, and whether the principles of language economics reached into the emergence of Tok Pisin.

In addition it appears essential me to deal with the history of Tok Pisin and to identify selected grammatical characteristics of this language in the grammars of the so-called parent languages.

Furthermore, I would like to clear the prejudice, Tok Pisin or any other Pidgin or Creole continue to be anything but a corrupted and highly simplified variety of "our" high-level languages.

2. On the language Tok Pisin

2.1 The name Tok Pisin

In this work, the language designation Tok Pisin will be used. On the one hand it is the endonym, on the other hand this prevents some misunderstandings. The common labels Pidgin English, Neuguinea Pidgin or Melanesian Pidgin declare Tok Pisin to be a Pidgin. This is perhaps still acceptable from language historical view, since Tok Pisin was originally an arbeiterpidgin in New Guinea and North Australia. In the meantime, however, it developed further from this status to a creole, which is far more than only a traffic language. (Concerning the terminology cf. chapter 2.4). Pidgin English is problematic because one can hardly say, it is a Pidgin of English, since thereby on the one hand is implied, Pidgins were no independent languages (cf. also chapter 2.4), on the other hand the fact is neglected that apart from English still a series of further languages was involved in the emergence of Tok Pisin.

The Exonym Melanesian Pidgin implies a spreading in the entire Melanesian linguistic area, and, beyond that, Tok Pisin were the only Pidgin of the region. Both implications are false. After VERHAAR, Melanesian Pidgin should be used rather as header of the Pidgins and Creoles of the region, e.g. Bislama on Vanuatu, Pijin of the Solomon Islands, etc. (cf. VERHAAR, p. 1f).

2.2 history of the language contact in the region

Tok Pisin is, as the name indicates, the product of a pidginisation. It developed in the plantations of Queensland and Samoa, to which the English colonists transferred hundreds of thousands of workers from New Guinea and the neighboring islands. These workers and their foremen used a simplified and adapted English as traffic language, in order to bridge the variety of several hundred languages of the region.

Already in pre-colonial time contacts must have developed, some which persisted until today, like Hiri Motu (cf. chapter 2.3). Beside the pidginisation within the Papua languages naturally also relations with neighboring languages and language families occurred, e.g. to the Australian languages and to the Malay languages. In what respect occasional parallels suggest language contact or rather genetic relation, is being discussed controversially in the literature, but it plays, however, no important role for the emergence of Tok Pisin. (WURM, p. 53-68 and NILE/CLERK p. 255ff, reflect this discussion).

Since the 16th century the region has been exposed to the influences from the European languages, which advanced the emergence of Pidgins in larger scale. The peoples of new Guinea remained however spared from colnialisation until the annexation by Great Britain and the German Reich 1884, so that the becoming of Tok Pisin begins only by this date.

Apart from the undeniable English influence, also influences of the German on Tok Pisin can be detected, even if the time of the German influencing was only relatively short (1884-1914), if one leaves aside some still existing institutions of the Protestant Mission, which have only local importance.
Furthermore, there were language contacts with Malay in form of the Bahasa Indonesia as state language, as well as regional Malay languages in Irian Jaya and the surrounding islands. Portuguese and Dutch, both important colonial languages of the region, left no reflexes in Tok Pisin.

2.3 situation and spreading today

Concerning the status of the language Tok Pisin there are very strongly diverging specifications in the literature. Both "FISCHERs Weltalmanach" and "HARENBERG Länderlexikon" assume English as official language and have Pidgin, or Melanesian Pidgin as colloquial language besides "about 740 Papua Languages" (cf. FISCHER, p. 563; HARENBERG p. 331). In "Philip's World Handbook" Motu and English are the official languages (Philip's, p. 170). For Blanz/Wendt Tok Pisin is a type Creole, which disintegrates into different "clear regional peculiarities". (cf. Blanz/Wendt, p. 112) after VERHAAR Tok Pisin is nowadays one of the two official state languages of Papua New Guinea, and in the entire national territory, even if in remote regions only to a small extent, common (cf. VERHAAR, p. 2f). The second official language, Hiri Motu, is particularly common in the southern regions, and also a Pidgin (cf. FOLEY, p. 32f). Both languages were assumed as state languages with independence in 1975.

Large agreement prevails in the literature examined by me over the fact that English still is common as office and school language, and Tok Pisin functions "as country-wide lingua franca" (cf. SEIB, p. 3). As to language variety and the linguistic-cultural connections write NILE/CLERK:

”The Pacific islands, particularly those of Melanesia, are still rich in languages. Sharing language is an important part of a sense of common identity [...]. Nevertheless, throughout the region local languages and dialects are tending to become eroded or replaced by those that have wider currency. The need for communication within the linguistically diverse countries of Melanesia has led to the adoption of pidgins. [...] Though containing differences, they are sufficiently alike to have contributed to the shared sense of Melanesian identity [...]. Elsewhere, despite their colonial connotations, English or French are used as the lingua franca in education and for official communications.” (NILE/CLERK, p. 207)
The number of speakers can hardly be determined. No concrete numbers are stated in the abovementioned literature, however is not to be assumed that more than 50% of the approximately 4 million inhabitants of Papua New Guinea speak Tok Pisin.

2.4 language status of Tok Pisin

Before we now proceed to the question which status Tok Pisin has, we should first clarify the terms Pidgin and Creole, since they can be very differently interpreted. In this work the definitions of HOLM are to be applied, which are given in the introduction to his work "Pidgins and Creoles”, whereby I for the sake of simplicity omit those sections, which he revises in later sections, here.

"A pidgin is a reduced language that results from extended contact between groups of people with no language in common; it evolves when they need some means of verbal communication [...] but no group learns the native language of any other group for social reasons [...]. They co-operate with the other groups to create a make-shift language to serve their needs, simplifying by dropping unnecessary complications such as inflections [...] and reducing the number of different words they use, but compensating by extending their meanings or using circumlocutions. By definition, the resulting pidgin is restricted to a very little domain, such as trade, and it is no one's native language.” (HOLM, p. 4f)

In agreement with MUEHLHAEUSLER he points out, however, that the Pidgin develops itself further from a simpler to a more complex system, in order to meet more complex communicative needs. (cf. HOLM p. 5; cf. MUEHLHAEUSLER p. 5). From this however, HOLM clearly separates the jargon, which is usually not group restricted but rather personbound, and which does not have fixed rules (cf. ibid.) HOLM defines a Creole as follows:

"A creole has a jargon or pidgin in its ancestry; it is spoken by an entire speech community, often one whose ancestors were displaced geographically so that their ties with their original language and sociocultural identity were partly broken.” (cf. HOLM, p. 6)
The important differences that distinguish Pidgins and Creoles are that a Creole is a native language and that it is subject to phonological processes (like assimilation), and that its vocabulary covers all areas of life, not only a narrow range.

These definitions do not mention at all the fact that these languages are independent, natural, and thus not baby talk, artificial languages, dialects, or corrupted versions of high-level languages.
As I would like to demonstrate in the following section on the basis some grammatical phenomena, Tok Pisin is much more than a simplified English with a few Papua words interspersed: it is an independent and fully functional language, which is partly very complex, even if some categories we know from our European languages "are missing”.

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