ka bilong mi i bagarap

The sounds of a pidgin or creole are likely to be fewer and less complicated in their possible arrangements than those of the corresponding standard language. For example, Tok Pisin makes use of only five basic vowels and also has fewer consonants than English. No contrast is possible between words like it and eat, or pin and fin, or sip, ship, and chip: the necessary vowel and consonant distinctions (contrasts) are not present. Speakers of Tok Pisin distinguish a ship from a sheep by calling the first a sip and the second a sipsip.

The vocabulary of a pidgin or a creole has a great many similarities to that of the standard language with which it is associated. However, it will be much more limited, and phonological and morphological simplification often leads to words assuming somewhat different shapes. As noted above in the example of sip and sipsip, it is sometimes necessary to use this reduplicative pattern to avoid possible confusion or to express certain concepts, e.g., ‘repetition’ or ‘intensification.’ Consequently, we find pairs like talk (‘talk’) and talktalk (‘chatter’), dry (‘dry’) and drydry (‘unpalatable’), look (‘look’) and looklook (‘stare’), cry (‘cry’) and crycry (‘cry continually’), pis (‘peace’) and pispis (‘urinate’), and san (‘sun’) and sansan (‘sand’). Certain concepts require a somewhat elaborate encoding: for example, in Tok Pisin ‘hair’ is gras bilong het, ‘beard’ is gras bilong fes, ‘feathers’ is gras bilong pisin, ‘moustache’ is gras bilong maus, ‘my car’ is ka bilong me, and ‘bird’s wing’ is han bilong pisin. A pidgin or creole may draw on the vocabulary resources of more than one language. Tok Pisin draws primarily from English but also from Polynesian sources, e.g., kaikai (‘food’), and even German, because of historical reasons, e.g., rausim (‘throw out’ from the German heraus, ‘outside’). The source may not always be a ‘polite’ one, e.g., Tok Pisin bagarap (‘break down’) is from the English bugger up. So ka bilong mi i bagarap is ‘My car broke down.’

Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics

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