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I will learn Tok Pisin:
Now! 25%
Tomorrow! 8%
This weekend! 8%
I'll learn it now and teach it to my children! 58%

Votes: 12

 Yumi bai spikim Tok Pisin nau!

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Jul 12, 2001
We've all heard about artificial international auxiliary languages such as Esperanto, Interlingua and (ugh) Lojban. Some loon decides he's God's personal gift to the world, and proceeds, with lofty goals in mind (and hardly any knowledge of linguistics), to invent some ugly, baroque and unfunctional monstrosity that he expects the whole world to learn to speak so they may thus love each other forever after. The clueless latch on, and successively loonier and increasingly reality-impaired nutcases and mentally unbalanced propertarian gun worshippers (Dr. Zamenhof, who wished Esperanto would bring world peace, must be turning over in his grave, and deservedly so) try to best each other by coming up with the craziest misinformed goals and the wackiest language. The idea of an international auxiliary language seems dead by association.

But is it really? What if I told you that as the result of a remarkable natural experiment, we already have a tried and tested language suitable for intercultural communication, developed not by ignorant loons in a stroke of misplaced "genius", but rather created by its speakers out of sheer need to communicate with people who don't speak their language?


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Yes, gentlepersons and anglos, such a language exists. It is Tok Pisin, the national language of Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country on Earth-- over 700 languages from a few different families are spoken in this country of roughly the size of California and roughly 5 million people. This is a communication problem of a size far beyond anything the inventors, er, loons behind the artificial languages, er, monstrosities, even aspire to solve; their languages are designed to be spoken by Europeans (or in the case of Lojban, by nutcases).

But Tok Pisin is different. Very different. It was not designed; rather, it sprang out of the basic communicative needs of migrant agricultural workers over 200 years ago, and later, as it became used in more and more domains, expanded to cover the whole range of human communicative needs. Up to the point that today it is the official language of a country, newspapers are published in it, popular music is recorded, legislative speeches are given in it, education is conducted in the language, Shakespeare is performed, and so on. Its time has certainly arrived, and it must conquer the world.

Characteristics of Tok Pisin

Why such a big deal? Look at the characteristics of Tok Pisin:

  • Extremely simple grammar. A key factor in pidgins is that, as auxiliary languages, their development naturally avoids features which would make them difficult for adult speakers of the wide variety of languages its speakers know to learn. They stick to the "unmarked" choices in grammar, i.e., the most universal and simple. Thus, Tok Pisin has:
    • No noun nor adjective declensions. Nouns and adjectives don't have gender, number or case. Number is indicated by a separate word if needed; same for sex.
    • Extremely simple verb conjugations. Tok Pisin verbs are conjugated for subject and object agreement, but not at all for tense, mood or aspect.
    • Tense, mood and aspect marked by separate auxiliary verbs or adverbs. These are not conjugated at all.
    • Simple prepositions. English has tons of very specific prepositions; Tok Pisin gets along with a handful of very general ones.
    • Simple phonology. There aren't many vowels and consonants to learn to pronounce, syllables don't have many consonant sequences, no tone, no weird stuff like vowel harmony, and so on. The orthography, having been designed recently, matches the language quite well.
  • An English based lexicon. In the colonial situation under which most known pidgins developed, there was a power imbalance between the European colonizers and the colonized. The one language the colonized could turn to in common to find words to use for their own communication was the colonial language. This means that most words in Tok Pisin originate in English, the most widely spoken language on Earth. And more importantly, borrowing further English vocabulary for new concepts is a specially natural choice.
  • Tok Pisin is inherently democratic. It wasn't imposed upon anybody from above-- it was jointly created by the decentralized efforts of honest workers to communicate and build their communities in their own terms, in true anarchist fashion.

The proposal

I propose governmental programs in each country to spread Tok Pisin over the world's population. Clearly the world needs a real natural language to serve as a common communication vehicle, and Tok Pisin is the simplest and most convenient tried and true choice. Yumi bai spikim Tok Pisin nau!

This should be modeled after successful English language literacy programs such as have been already conducted in the US (and elsewhere in Europe; particularly, revolutionary France), a prime example being the wildly successful English language initiatives in southwestern Louisiana in the 1920's and 30's, or the successful resucitation of the Hebrew language in modern times. It must be said that not all such programs have been successful; witness the case of Puerto Rico, where a lack of commitment, forcefulness and resources by the US administration in its language policy during between 1900 and 1930 made a comparable program a miserable failure, much to the embarassment of USia. The governments of the world must act firmly and decisively to bring this about; otheriwse, the consequences can be quite disturbing. Given the demographic trends in place in western countries today, we can all agree that we need special goverment intervention by specially created agencies to establish a firm language policy; otherwise, our countries will degenerate into Quebec-like linguistic strife. And Tok Pisin is the perfect tool for job.


Umm (none / 0) (#5)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Jul 12th, 2001 at 02:30:38 PM PST
Isn't English already the natural language? Lets look at the strengths of english:

1)It is already spoken by 2 Billion people

2)It is already spoken by 2 Billion people

3)It is already spoken by 2 Billion people

Clearly English is an unstoppable force - even in China, right now, 100 million Chinese are learning English, the international language of aspiration.

And lets not forget, unlike other languages such as French, English is not tainted by cultural imperialism. This may seem an unusual thng to say, but it is true - English is predominately spoken by people outside England, the mother country. It has spread not through force of arms, but by being forgiving of mistakes and grammar (most English speakers know little formal grammar - something that is perhaps to be deprecated, but at least means that the barrier to entry is very small). Also, English is an SVO language, but is also understandable when used as an SOV language, as it is descended from Old English.

Furthermore, English has been divorced from the mother country for an exceedingly long time, and now the influences on the language come from all over the world. English is like a giant sponge, it consumes other languages not by wiping them out, but by absorbing them completely.

Unlike French, with the Academe Francoise and such fascist top down approaches, English is controlled by the ordinary people who speak it.

This is its greatest strength.

damn foreigners (none / 0) (#6)
by johnny ambiguous on Fri Jul 13th, 2001 at 12:58:22 PM PST
The bad thing about all these hostile aliens learning our language is that while they can understand us, they still can speak their own weird cryptic tongues as well. So if you're a right-thinking American (I am, and I sure hope you are too, buddy), and in consequence of that you proudly refuse to learn any of those lesser foreign tongues (I mean, why?) then you sometimes find yourself in an embarrassing situation.

Take me, for example. I live in Tampa, Florida. There are a lot of damn funny-speaking foreigners here, who perversely refuse to speak God's tongue, English. Damn if I know why! And I sure don't wanna hear their excuse, "Well, Senor, I was born in Cuba or Puerto Rico or whatever, and we don't speak Engles there, we speak Hespanyol instead!" Well, damn ya, why don't y'all speak "Engles" there? And why do y'all have those skinny tires on your lowrider rice-burnin' pickups, stead of meaty high-ridin' knobby off-roaders like I got on my Proud American Chevy pickemup? I mean.

Well, anyway. I go into a diner for lunch. I order a Cuban sandwich and a cup of Cuban coffee. Mmm! But meanwhile they's all these swarthy Hispanics to the right of me and to the left of me, a gabblin between one another in that funny-ass language of theirs, "gobble gobble gobble." And of course, cause they ain't speaking English, ain't no way I or any decent white American can make out a dang thing they're saying. Well you can't tell me them sonsabitches ain't talkin bout me. I fucken well know they are! And I sure as Hell resent it!

Let them basterds either a.) forget that Hespanyol jibberjabber once n for all, and speak English like Jesus did, or b.) prohibit them from learning English altogether! Cause then me an my crew can say mean funny things bout them as well, and the sneaky little basterds won't understand a word we's sayin! Hee hee hee!

Yours Clem the Crew Chief

Getting into my Chevrolet Magic Fire, I drove slowly back to the office. - L. Rosen

Yes (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Jul 14th, 2001 at 12:51:36 PM PST
Unfortunately I am not American, I am British. But thats not really foreign, hey? We all fit in the same Anglo Saxon tradition economically and culturally.

Damned Hispanics - I understand you Americans have a lot of them polluting your country with their babble. Problem is, if they had any sort of work ethic they'd be learning English double quick and getting a job in a fast food outlet as a first step in the American Dream, but immigrants these days aren't what they used to be - they just come over to get on the dole.

Its a shame really, but what can be done? Whenever we try to set remedies for these problems we get bashed for being racialists and fascists and whatnot.

Liberal left is ruining everywhere these days. My grandfather fought against the fuzzy-wuzzy's in the Sudan you know, he'd be turning in his grave if he knew they are here, among us, and refusing to integrate like good immigrants (If the Normans could, anyone can).

Classic unitedstatian (none / 0) (#8)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 1st, 2001 at 08:54:33 PM PST
First of all, this isn't anonymous, my name is Luis De Las Casas, and about english...
Man english suks to much, it really really suks!

1. The sound of writen english is RANDOM, sometimes A sounds as in ASS, and somtimes like in AIR, E sometimes as in elephant and sometimes as in READ, what a mess! even the past of read is written read but sounds different? hey at least languages as Deutch and Español have an understandable pronunciation.

2. The language of god? uh... let me guess, Jesus was british? no sorry, he was unitedstatian, right?

3. Don't be so jerk, english IS an imposed language, by an empire yes, and a very belic one... nuclear shield for god's sake...

Don't you know why you are filled with cubanos and puertoriqueños? Cause your damn country have forced them to, you fucked cuba badly, and then you wonder why they are swimming to your shores...

You know why it bothers you and all your ignorant pals? 'Cause those "latinos" that are supposedly worse than you, like "less evolved", turn out that speaks two or more languages, meanwhile you speak one, and baddly, don't you? a little worse and you don't speak at all!
So you feel you are less, therfore you feel angry.

And you know what? you are! sorry for you, but everybody respects someone who speaks 7 languagues, the logic conclusions is that someone that speaks more languages than you, is more respected, but you are so pathetic, that you feel bad with someone that speaks more than one.

By the way... Cubanos y Puertorriqueños, speaks the horrible spanish ever... and they make you feel less, man... get a life!

Massive ignorance... (none / 0) (#9)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Feb 18th, 2002 at 07:25:40 AM PST
It's people like you who make the world laugh at America. What do you do for a living? Truck driver? Construction worker? Unemployed hick?
How is it bad to know several languages? Your school system das dacayed to a degree where even the dumbest person will get his diploma and can go to college (if he can afford it). Seriously, do you actually learn anything at school? Or even college? Come to Europe and see what real education is. It's people who have education, skill and ambition who made America what it is. People like you, however, make your country look ridiculous. Immigration is a different topic. I agree with you that every immigrant has to be be able to speak the language of the country he lives in. But being able to speak other languages is a big plus, and there's nothing wrong with it. Don't blame your lack on education on other people, try to learn something yourself instead.

Keelhaul (Germany)


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