Grammatical categories and their realisations in Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea
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Whoever hears Tok Pisin for the first time, is irritated. English and Papua words, with almost pure German phonology, are sequenced almost inflectionless. How is one to communicate in such a way? From our native languages and the surrounding languages in Europe we are used to a certain extent of inflection and form variety, even if this varies from language to language. A sentence in Tok Pisin however does not seem to express many of our familiar categories at all:
1) yu save draiva trak bilong em i arasait?In this phrase, neither case nor gender nor number are marked.
you know driver truck of him PM over there
Do you know the driver of the truck over there?
Also the definiteness is not expressed. From this fact it should not be assumed, however, that there would be no grammatical categories in Tok Pisin or no possibility of expressing the same circumstances just as differentiated as we can do it in German or English. In this section, I would like to first state some examples how certain semantic and grammatical categories are expressed in Tok Pisin, before I investigate the different reasons for their being so in the following section.
The first range of categories, which I would like to regard for this, is very complex and its sections are difficult to separate, since they all modify the predicate. Their summary for Tok Pisin is from VERHAAR, who justifies it as follows:
"While expressions of tense, aspect, and modality add up to quite a few descriptive complications for any particular language, the most prominent complication is in this: how, tense, aspect, and modality are intertwined - as they are in any language. in English, for example, tense may be used for the irrealis modality (past tense in if he came, I would not deny him entry); [...]." (VERHAAR, p. 311)Following VERHAAR I would like to label this summary as t-a-m-system (cf. ibid.).
Time conditions are lexically expressed in Tok Pisin, whereby the present is unmarked. We first look at some example sentences:
2) pukpuk hia i gat bikpela tis.
crocodile here PM got big-AM teeth
This crocodile has got big teeth.
3) ol i bin slip long haus bilong mi.
PPRON PM TM sleep PREP house POSS PPRON
They were sleeping in(side) my house.
4) sapos yu kaikai planti pinat bai yu kamap strong olsem phantom.
if PPRON eat much peanut FUT PPRON become strong like phantom
If you eat many peanuts, you will become strong like the phantom.
Anteriority can thus be marked through bin 'been', posteriority by bai (< baimbai < by and by), whereby the exact time relation is indicated by the context. Bin can also express anteriority to a future action, or the anteriority of a hypothetical past (Irrealis); similar rules apply also to bai (cf. VERHAAR p. 312-316)
In addition, apart from the time relation, another expression about the predicate can be made: whether an action is persisting or final, whether it repeats or occurs habitually or whether a law of nature or the like is the its basis. For this some example sentences:
5) Mi go pinis de olgeta.
PPRON go TM day whole
I have been walking all day.
6) Tripela arapela pipol em ol i bin dai pinis, ol i bin painim ol sampela aua bihain aninit long bikpela hap ol ais.
Three other-AM people PPRON all PM TM die TM PPRON PM PRÄT find-TR PPRON some-AM hour later underneath PRÄP big-AM heap whole ice
Three more people had already died when they were found underneath a big heap of snow.
7) Ol i kaikai i stap.
PPRON PM eat DUR
They are (currently) eating.
8) Hamas de pikinini i sik i stap?
how much day child PM (be) sick DUR
How many days has/had the child been sick?
9) Na tupela i wok long tok pait long ai bilong king.
and two-AM PM DUR talk fight PREP eye POSS King.
And the two continued fighting before the eye(s) of the king.
10) Em i wok long krai i stap.
PPRON(3) PM DUR cry DUR
He/She kept crying. / He cried and cried.
11) Em i wok long gro i go i go.
PPRON(3) PM DUR grow DUR
It is/keeps growing constantly.
12) Malaria em i namba wan sik i save bagarapim ol manmeri bilong dispela kantri.
Malaria PPRON(3) PM number one disease PM be able kill-TR all men-women POSS DPRON-AM land.
Malaria is disease number one killing men and women of this country.
A final action (perfective aspect) is indicated by pinis 'terminated, to terminate', this action can be in past or future.
Different markers, whereby in Tok Pisin the forms of progressive or durative cannot be negated, since they can only be connected with predicates in the realis, can indicate a continuous action. (VERHAAR p. 318 f.)
The markers for the durative are: i stap, wok long and i go i go, also several markers can be used at the same time. (cf. records 10 and 11)
A habitual action or a characteristic (habitual aspect) can be marked with save 'to be able'.
The different aspects are expressed lexically in Tok Pisin, however in a way similar to a morphologic principle, which exists in many Papua languages. Here, one or more verbs are attached to the core verb, describing either the process of an action or their persistence or their compartmentation. This cohering is so close that morphophonologic processes can extend over the entire verb chain. (cf. FOLEY, p. 142-158)
In Tok Pisin this lining up of verbs is not as strong, but produces forms as in sentence 11. How similar these means are, however, my be illustrated by the following example from Fore:
'he is coming'
(cf. FOLEY, p. 144)
A further aspect drops out of this system in the type of its formation: Intensive or several times repeated actions (intensive, iterative) can be expressed by reduplication of the verb.
14) bai sampela ol i toktok i stap na ol i no harim gut tok bilong yu.
FUT some PPRON PM talk-talk DUR and PPRON PM NEG hear-TR well speech POSS PPRON
Some of them will be talking and not listen well to your speech.
Reduplication is not found in FOLEY's and WURM's descriptions of the Papuan Languages. WURM mentions only that in one of the branches reduplication is not uncommon with the adjective. (WURM, p. 62). Also, in the English grammar there are hardly any reduplicated forms. After QUIRK/GREENBAUM they are to be found only in informal language and probably go back on the manner of speaking towards children. (QUIRK/GREENBAUM, p. 448). The roots of this phenomenon are to be looked up thus in another place, i.e. during the process of the Creolisation. Reduplication as means of word formation and for signaling of repeated actions is here very common and productive in almost all Pidgins and Creoles (cf. HELLINGER, p. 117f.).
The modification of the verb is done in Tok Pisin, like in particular in many languages (cf. KATAMBA, p. 222), by adding lexical units: inap, ken, laik, mas, and save express the ability, desire, obligation, intention, necessity, prohibition, possibility etc. Their use is, as in English, bound to a set of rules, which partly overlap in their range. Altogether, the situation in Tok Pisin presents itself in such a way as it is also in English, even if the English has a by far larger number of modal particles (cf. QUIRK/GREENBAUM, p. 37 and VERHAAR p. 323).
For this some examples:
15) mi no inap pasim maus moa.
PPRON NEG-be able shut-TR mouth more
I cannot keep my mouth shut any more.
16) yu noken [= no + ken] stap hia.
PPRON not be able stay here
You can't stay here
17) yumi save tok pisin.
PPRON be able talk pidgin
We can speak Tok Pisin
18) mi laik baim sampela pis.
PPRON want buy-TR some-AM fish.
I want/would like to buy some fish.
19) mi mas i go long dokta.
PPRON must PM go PREP doctor.
I have to go to the doctor.
Mode is not expressed by own forms in Tok Pisin; the distinction of Realis, Irrealis and Potentialis is mostly implicit, while often signal words as sapos 'presupposed, if' are used.
20) sapos yumi wokabaut lek, dispela em i hevi.
if PPRON go foot/leg DPRON PPRON PM heavy.
It would be hard if we go by foot.
21) mi ting i gutpela sapos mi no bin wokim ol.
PPRON think PM good if PPRON NEG TM make-TR PPRON
I think it would have been better if I never made them.
Even if much that is marked in English remains unmarked in Tok Pisin, the parallels to English are nevertheless unmistakable. There is an amalgamation of these three categories that does not permit a clear separation. (For the reasons of this close connection see KATAMBA, p. 223f.)
If a category of this system is expressed at all, then lexically, apart from the reduplication with the iterative as an exception.
A completely different picture is found with transitivity and the phenomena which are connected with them. With respect to English, transitive and intransitive verbs are not formally differentiated. (QUIRK/GREENBAUM, p. 14). In Tok Pisin however, transitive verbs are indicated by the marker -im (cf. VERHAAR, p. 334):
22) [...] na i gat mak tupela leta "e" krosim wanpela narapela bilong soim mak bilong despela niupela moni "euro" [...].
and PM have sign two-AM letter "e" cross one-AM another-AM PREP show-TR sign POSS DPRON new-AM currency "euro"
[...] and bears the sign of two letters "e" crossing one another to be the symbol of the new currency "Euro" [...]
23) long europe ol i gat niupela moni [...], em ol i kolim long "euro".
PREP europe all PM exist new-AM currency REL all PM call-TR PREP "euro"
In Europe, there is a new currency that is called "Euro".
24) strongpela raun-win, [...], i bin kamapim bikpela bagarap long guam.
strong-AM round-wind PM TM come up-TR big-AM destruction PREP Guam.
A strong cyclone caused heavy destruction(s) in Guam.
25a) mi save rait.
PPRON be able write
I can write.
25b) mi save raitim pas.
PPRON be able write-TR letter.
I can write a letter.
As can be seen from the above-mentioned examples, the transitivity of a verb is only marked, if it is actually used transitively. (see records 25 a and b). also reflexive (reciprocal) verbs (record 22) and causative verbs (record 24) are marked by -im.
This type of marking does not exist in any of the donor languages of Tok Pisin, and it is one of its unmistakable features (cf. HELLINGER, p. 121). A special feature is also the construction in record 23. In Tok Pisin, there is no passive to move the object of an action into the foreground (cf. VERHAAR, p. 334), as in: "The dog has been beaten”.
Tok Pisin achieves this realignment of the so-called focus where the subject of the action moves into the background by replacing it through ol, that is to be interpreted as an indefinite pronoun (cf. engl. 'one') here (cf. op.cit., p. 336). Why a shift of the object to the beginning of the sentence is not permitted for focus realignment, is being explained in the next paragraph.
On the basis of sentence 1 we had already stated that the case of a noun is not marked in Tok Pisin. One thus cannot see from the noun isolated from a Syntagma, which syntactic position it filled (cf. German.: dem Mann(e), which can only be an object). At no place in the Tok Pisin sentence subject-object relations are marked morphologically, they are being expressed only by the position(s) of the noun(s) in the sentence. Therefore, Tok Pisin has, like English, a very rigid syntax. Also, most Papuan languages have a strict syntax (usually strictly SOV), although subject and object markers occur at nouns and partly also verbs (cf. WURM p. 60-63). Tok Pisin in this case clearly follows the English scheme SVO.
In the light of this rule it is obvious that a syntactic conversion would not cause a shift of the focus but rather completely different meanings. From this, it is self-explanatory why another system developed in Tok Pisin.
Number is a further category, which we not found expressed in the example sentence 1. To examine the implementation of number or "quantity" in Tok Pisin, we take further example sentences:
26) em i sindaun long wanpela ston.
PPRON PM sit down PREP one-AM stone
he sits down at a stone.
27) kapa bilong pinga i waitpela.
lid,cap POSS finger PM white-AM
The fingernail is white. / Fingernails are white.
28) insait dispela ples i gat dok i kaikai ol man na meri!(It would be more correct to say "... i kaikaiim ol man na meri"; cf. chapter 3.2)
inside DPRON-AM place exist dog PM eat all man and woman
In(side) this place there is a dog that bites all men and women.
29) sampela yangpela meri tu i kam.
some-AM young-AM woman too PM come
Some young women came, too.
30) mi dringim liklik hap wara.
PPRON drink-tr little bit water
I drink a little water.
The semantic categories "singular" and "plural" are differentiated, however there is no morphologic marking of the numbers. Tok Pisin is thus a language, which is number-indifferent. "Number " can be expressed, as in record 26, by a numeral, which is used as indefinite article, or by terms like ol 'all' or sampela 'some', whose meaning implies a non-singular. In general predicates, such as record 27, a lexical marking of this kind does not have to be made.
A distinction between computable and not-computable nouns is made as in English and German; and not-computable nouns must have so-called classifiers placed before them (cf. record 30).
Accordingly, no number is expressed with the verb, it remains completely unchanged. Usually, the person and the number are already expressed in other places in the sentence or in the context, so that clarity is given. If this is not the case, as with the contextless example 31, there are several possible interpretations:
31) wokim bokis na pulimapim graun long em.
make-TR box and fill-TR ground PREP PPRON
(I, you, we, you, they) make a box and fill it with soil.
(I, you, we, you, they) make one box and fill it with soil.
(he) makes a box and fills it with soil.
Make a box and fill it with soil !
(I, you, we, you, they) make boxes and fill them with soil.
[...] to make boxes and (to) fill them with soil.
The question about the morphologic number becomes problematic with the pronoun. VERHAAR assumes here that Tok Pisin has not only singular and plural, but also dual and trial, whereby developments of these categories can be found only with the personal pronouns. (cf. VERHAAR, p. 354ff). Besides yumi and mipela (exclusive and inclusive 'we'), he assumes also still the dual forms yumitupela or mitupela and the trial forms yumitripela or mitripela respectively. Additionally, also constructions like mifopela 'we four EXCL.' are possible.
I regard this as a misinterpretation of VERHAAR. There is no plausible reason why there should be such an accumulation of numbers just with the personal pronoun, which is not to be found in the system of Tok Pisin otherwise at all. There is, according to FOLEY, a very differentiated system of personal pronouns in many Papuan languages, which differentiates inclusive and exclusive forms in the 1.PL. and partially also knows dual forms, however trial and paucal is to be fond only very rarely (cf. FOLEY p. 66-74).
He likewise states a dual for Tok Pisin pronouns, qualifies however at the same time:
"-pela is a marker of nonsingularity that occurs with most nonsingular nouns. the dual, indicating two tokens of the referent, is expressed by the numeral tu 'two', occurring after the pronoun base and before -pela." (FOLEY, p. 67)
Therefore it is - according to my opinion - not useful to speak of a dual there. This suggests the presence of a grammatical category, which does not exist at all in such a way in Tok Pisin. In the Papuan languages, which are the basis for Tok Pisin, there partly are these numbers: singular and plural are to be found in all subfamilies, the dual is relatively far common in two of three sub-groups, the trial does occur rarely. If, however, dual or trial are available, then they are not solely marked at the personal pronoun but also at the verb, and not with a numeral or a derivative of it, but with certain bound morphemes. (cf. FOLEY, p. 130ff. and WURM p. 60)
The Papua speakers thus brought a semantic (!) distinction, which in some the native languages is markes morphologically in several places into the developing Pidgin.
To assume for Tok Pisin a set of four numbers, which is marked at the personal pronoun exclusively, only on the basis of these rarely occurring forms seems like exaggeration to me. Especially, since VERHAAR points out himself that also formations with higher numerals as mifopela are allowed . Why does he not also assume a tetral etc., then?
According to my judgement, the pronoun formations of the type mitripela are not representations of number, but rather an open class of contracted compositions of pronoun plus numeral, which was established in Tok Pisin. That a category such as number, which is not bound to one word-class, is formed exclusively in only one word class, but in this however with such a multiplicity of forms, is nevertheless most improbable, particularly since in this concrete case it firstly was a Pidgin, which (according to HOLMs definition, cf. chapter 2.4) directs at maximal language economy.
In my humble opinion, there is no grammatical category number in Tok Pisin, but rather a semantic category "quantity", which can be expressed lexically, and which is expressed in places, at which it is also strongly marked (morphologically) in some of the donor languages.