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Pijin language

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Pijin language

Native to Solomon Islands
Native speakers
24,000  (1999)[1]
300,000 L2 speakers (1999)
English Creole
  • Pacific
    • Pijin
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pis
Glottolog piji1239[2]
Linguasphere 52-ABB-cd

Pijin (Solomons Pidgin or Neo-Solomonic) is a language spoken in Solomon Islands. It is closely related to Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea and Bislama of Vanuatu; these might be considered dialects of a single language. It is also related to Torres Strait Creole of Torres Strait, though more distantly.

In 1999 there were 307,000-second- or third-language speakers with a literacy rate in first language of 60%, a literacy rate in second language of 50%.[3]



During the early nineteenth century, an English Jargon, known as Beach-La-Mar, developed and spread through the Western Pacific as a language used among traders (Lingua franca) associated with the whaling industry at the end of the 18th century, the sandalwood trade of the 1830s, and the bêche-de-mer trade of the 1850s.[4]


Between 1863 and 1906, Blackbirding was used for the sugar cane plantation labour trade in Queensland, Samoa, Fiji and New Caledonia. At the beginning of the trade period, the Australian planters started to recruit in the Loyalty Islands early 1860s, Kingsmill Islands and the Banks Islands around the mid-1860s, New Hebrides and the Santa Cruz Islands in the early 1870s, and New Ireland and New Britain from 1879 when recruiting became difficult. Around 13,000 Solomon Islanders were taken to Queensland during this labour trade period.[5]

The (Kanaka) pidgin language was used on the plantations and became the lingua franca spoken between Melanesian workers (the Kanakas, as they were called) and European overseers. When Solomon Islanders came back to the Solomons at the end of their contract, or when they were forcefully repatriated at the end of the labour trade period (1904), they brought pidgin to the Solomon Islands. Old people today still remember the stories that were told by the old former Queensland hands many years after their return [6] [7]


Plantation languages continued into the 20th century even though the process of blackbirding had ceased. Due to the changing nature of labour traffic there was a divergence of Samoan plantation Pijin and New Guinea Tok Pisin and also other plantation Pijin and Oceanic Pijins such as Bislama and Solomon Pijin.

After 1900

In 1901, there were approximately 10,000 Pacific Islanders working in Australia, most in the sugar cane industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales, many working as indentured labourers. The Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901, Parliament of Australia was the facilitation instrument used to deport approximately 7,500 Pacific Islanders.[8]

Up until 1911 approximately 30,000 Solomon Islanders were indentured labourers to Queensland, Fiji, Samoa and New Caledonia.[9] The use of Pijin by churches and missionaries assisted in the spread of Pijin.

With Pax Britannica and the advent of the local plantation system in the Solomon Islands, the use of Pijin was reactivated and the language started to spread in the country. It also acquired more Solomonic linguistic characteristics. Throughout the 20th century Pijin kept spreading: historical events such as Maasina Rule and WWII, and social changes such as urbanisation, played a central role in the transformation of the language. It is now the lingua franca of the country, though it has no official status.


Despite being the lingua franca of the Solomon Islands, Pijin remains a spoken language with little to no effort made thus far on the part of the national government toward standardising its orthography and grammar. Efforts at standardisation have been made by Christian Associations such as SITAG. There exist a partial dictionary since 1978 (Simons and Young 1978), a full dictionary of Pijin since 2002 (Jourdan 2002), a spelling list (Beimers 2010) and a complete description of its grammar (Beimers 2009). This being the case Pijin remains a very flexible language where the main focus is on message delivery irrespective of the niceties of formal sentence construction. A translation of the Bible into pijin also represents a standardisation of some aspects of pijin.[10]


English Sound – IPA Pijin Sound – IPA Pijin example English Origin
ch – [tʃ] s – [s] tisa, sea, mas (haomas) teacher, chair, much (how much?)
si – [si] sios church
sh – [ʃ] s – [s] sot, bus, masin short, bush, machine
th – [θ] s – [s] maos mouth
t – [t] torowe, torowem, ating, andanit throw, throw away, I think, underneath
th – [ð] t – [t] brata, barata, bro brother
d – [d] deswan, diswan, this wan this one
r – [ɹ] nara, narawan another, another one
z – [z] s – [s] resa razor
-er – [-ɹ] a – [ɑ] mata, mada (mami), soa, faea matter, mother, pain sore, fire
or; ir/er – [oɹ]; [ɹ] o; a/e – [o]; [ɑ]/[ɛ] bon, bonem, bone, fastaem, festime (festaem) born, burn, borne, first time

(Recreated with IPA from[9] and[11] and[12] )


Aftanun ol'ta! = Good afternoon everyone!

Nem blo' mi Charles = My name is Charles (The name that belongs to me is Charles)

Hao nao (iu)? (Iu hao?) = How are you

Wanem nao nem blo' iu? = What is your name?

Iu blo' wea? = Where are you from?

Mi hapi tumas fo mitim iu. = I'm pleased to meet you.

Wanem nao lanwis iu save tok? = What languages do you know?


Mi (me) olraet nomoa! = I am fine thank you!

Mi (me) gut (nomoa)! = I am fine thank you!

Alright nomoa! = Very well thank you!

Ma iu (yu) hao? = And how are you?

Personal pronouns

Singular Pronouns Pijin English
1st Person mi me
2nd Person iu you
3rd Person hem him/her/it
Dual Trial Plural
1st Person Inclusive iumitufala iumitrifala iumifala, iumi
1st Person Exclusive mitufala mitrifala mifala
2nd Person iutufala iutrifala iufala
3rd Person tufala trifala ol, olketa

Pijin, like other languages to which it is related, involves a distinction between singular, dual, trial, and plural pronouns. Dual forms refer to two people or things, trial forms refer to three, and plural forms refer to three or more. These pronoun forms are not present in English, but are common in many other South Pacific languages.


Pijin pronouns also use different forms to distinguish between inclusive and exclusive pronouns. The inclusive and exclusive features are only realised in the first person dual, trial, and plural pronoun forms. For example, the first person dual inclusive pronoun, iumitufala, means ‘we’ (you and me, including the listener), whereas the first person dual exclusive pronoun, mitufala, means ‘we’ (him/her and me, excluding the listener). This dual inclusive pronoun is used quite frequently in the Solomon Islands. It is most often used in religious sermons when the speaker is referring to a relationship between himself/herself and a specific individual in the audience.[13]


Wea nao ples blong/blo iu? Where is the place that belongs to you, (What is your address?)
iu stap lo wea distaem? Where are you now?


(pointing to an object)

  • Wanem nao datwan? What is that one?
  • Haomas nao bae hem kostem mi fo sendem wanfala erogram go lo' Japan How much will it cost me to send this letter to Japan?
  • Hu nao bae save helpim mifala weitim diswan rabis? = Who will/might be able to help us with this mess
  • Wea nao mi bae save paiem fea fo plen? = Where will/would I be able I buy a plane ticket?
  • Haomas pipol save fitim insaet lo' truk blo' iu? = How many people can your truck/car/van carry?

General expressions

  • Tanggio tumas fo helpem mi = Thank you very much for helping me
  • No wariwari. Hem oraet nomoa = No worries. It is all right (no more).
  • Hem! = That's it! or That's the one!
  • Hem na ya! = Voila! or Told you so! (A lot of people smile when foreigners use this correctly)
  • Mi or Me karange! = Wow!
  • Mi or Me dae nau! = Literally I'm dying but used generally to express surprise or shock.
  • Iu kon man! = Liar/Cheat!
  • Iu karange? = Are you mad?
  • Diswan hem bagarap. = This (thing) is broken.
  • Mi or Me no save paiem (baem). = I can't afford it
  • Iu save gud tumas pijin! = You understand pijin very well
  • Iu save tumas! = You are very capable!
  • Mi or Me no save. = I don't know or I can't
  • Lukim iu! = Bye! (literally: See you!)
  • bro blo' mi / sista blo' mi = my brother / my sister (used respectfully to address the person to whom you are speaking – if spoken by a foreigner it can be quite powerful for breaking the ice)
  • diswan hemi bulsit blo' waitman nomoa. = this is simply white-man nonsense
  • Mi or Me dae, go long namba nin. = "I'm injured, and going to the hospital".
  • Hemi daefinis. "He is dead". (dead finished)

Linguistic topics

Transitive verb suffix

In comparison to their original English forms Pijin transitive verbs have an additional morpheme in the form of a suffix. To the English speaker, these morphemes sound like VERB + 'him' or 'them.' The suffix is realised through the morphemes –m, -im, and –em. For example, the Pijin word for 'love' would be lavem.


bildim haos

build+SUF – house

‘build a house’

peim skul yuniform

buy+SUFF – school – uniform

‘buy a school uniform’

letem yu go

let+SUFF – you – go

‘let you go’



Another linguistic phenomena that occurred in the transitions from English to Solomand Islands' Pijin is the addition of vowels in the interior and final positions of a word. Like most languages in the Solomon Islands consonant clusters and consonant-final words do not occur in Pijin. Therefore, speakers of the language add vowels in between consonants in and word finally to adapt the English forms to Pijin grammar. The selection of the extra vowels is usually made in accordance with vowel harmony rules. For example, the word 'business' ([bɪznɛs]) becomes bisinis or bisinisi (depending on the age and dialect of the Pijin speaker).[15]

Audio examples

  • (Religious readings)Good News – PIJIN

See also


  1. ^ Pijin at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Pijin". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). "Pijin, A language of Solomon Islands". Ethnologue. Retrieved 12 October 2008. 
  4. ^ William Churchill (1911). "The Jargon of the Western Pacific". Nature 88 (2200): 295.  
  5. ^ ed Jeff Siegel (2000). Features and transformations of kinship terminology in Solomon Islands Pijin'. In Processes of Language Contact: Studies from Australia and the South Pacific. Montreal: Fides. pp. 99–122. 
  6. ^ Jourdan, Christine; Roger Keesing (1997). "From Fisin to Pijin: Creolization in process in the Solomon Islands". Language in Society 26: 401–420.  
  7. ^ Jourdan, Christine. "Legitimacy of Solomon Island Pijin". Anthropological Notebooks 2: 43–54. 
  8. ^ Tracey Flanagan, Meredith Wilkie, Susanna Iuliano (2003). "A history of South Sea Islanders in Australia". Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Retrieved 12 October 2008. 
  9. ^ a b Maggie Wateha'a. The Beginners Pijin Handbook. Honiara: RAMSI. p. 3. 
  10. ^ Ringer, David. "Solomon Islands government celebrates Pijin Bible release". Wycliffe. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  11. ^  
  12. ^  
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Arika, Ann Lindvall (5 June 2011). "Glimpses of the Linguistic Situation in Solomon Islands" (Conference Paper). 
  15. ^  

Simons, Linda and Hugh Young. (1978) Pijin blong yumi. A guide to Solomon Islands Pijin. Honiara: SITAG Jourdan, Christine (2002). Pijin: a trilingual cultural dictionary (with Ellen Maebiru). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. Beimers, Gerry (2010) Wei fo raetem olketa wod long Pijin. Beimer, Gerry (2009) A grammar of Solomon Islands Pijin. Unpublished PhD thesis. Armidale: The University of New England.

External links

  • Holy Communion in Solomon Islands Pijin (1999) translated by Ernest W. Lee, transcribed by Richard Mammana
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