Robert Eklund’s Tok Pisin Page

Here is my Tok Pisin page. Enjoy this fantastic language!

No Ken Simuk No smoking sign in Kavieng.

This page contains several different items, so it’s worthwhile to scroll down. You can read, listen to and download...

  • A (very) short introduction to Tok Pisin
  • A cute ditty in Tok Pisin
  • A hymn in Tok Pisin (own studio recording)
  • A sample of authentic conversation in Tok Pisin
  • A comic
  • Tok Pisin Speech Synthesis
  • A machine translation sample, Swedish to Tok Pisin
  • Tok Pisin links
So, take your time, and you’ll learn a few things about a wonderful language.

A Short Description of Tok Pisin

Tok Pisin is an English-lexicon pidgin/creole language spoken in Papua New Guinea. It is one of the three official languages of this nation with nearly 800 languages. (The other two official languages are English and Hiri Motu.) Although around 80% of the lexicon is derived from English, the syntax is predominantly Austronesian. The basic word order is SVO.

Some Grammatical Traits of Tok Pisin

The Austronesian substratum in Tok Pisin appears on several levels in the syntax. A few traits of interest are described in the following passages.

Distinction between inclusive and exclusive personal plural pronouns
Tok Pisin discriminates between e.g. mipela (“we”, exluding the addressee) and yumi (“we”, including the addressee).

Predicate marking
Tok Pisin makes use of a predicate marker i, which precedes the predicate in cases where the subject contains some kind of third-person element. (This means that it does not appear after some subject pronouns.) Although it is sometimes seen written together with the predicate verb (e.g. in the weekly newspaper Wantok), and sometimes with the preceding pronoun (ditto), it definitely exists in its own right, and marks the entire predicate. For example, in negated predicates, the negation no goes between the predicate marker and the predicate verb.

Serial verb constructions
All verbs of movement or direction are serial verb constructions in Tok Pisin, specifying whether the direction implied is towards (i kam) or away from (i go) the speaker.

Aspect/tense marking
Tok Pisin encodes aspect (continuous and completed) and tense (mainly future) by means of free-standing markers with a relatively free distribution. The continuous markers are i stap or wok long and the completive marker is pinis. The future marker is bai, which is placed either in sentence-initial or predicate-initial position. This means that the subject pronoun is (often) placed in between the future marker and the predicate verb.

Reduplicative morphology
Although Tok Pisin, like pidgin and creole languages in general, lacks inflectional morphology, reduplicative morphology is very productive, and serves many different linguistic purposes.

Further reading
For more information on Tok Pisin, have a look at Eva Lindström’s homepage.

Children’s Ditty

During my last visit, children on both coasts were singing this funny little ditty while clapping their hands in a way I never quite managed to learn myself.

The lyrics are not “pure” Tok Pisin, but a mixture of English and Tok Pisin, but it is so adorable, so I realised I wanted to preserve it for posterity, so one evening I recorded Tine and Damaris on Eva’s porch in Bimun, New Ireland.

Off Yu Go recording session Recording session on Eva’s veranda, Bimun, New Ireland, January 2000

In the table below you find two files to download. The long one covers a fair share of the recording session, including several alternative takes. You can hear both me and Eva talk with the performers Tine and Damaris. (Grace is listening, with her back towards to camera.) You can also hear the word “temaieng”, which means “thank you” in Kuot.

For years I wondered what the part about the “swollen face” meant, until Jael Girard (who spent part of her young years in PNG) kindly informed that that is what happens to you when you get home again and get a beating (face slaps) from having run off without permission.

Title English Translation Sound Files

Off yu go

Off, off, off yu go
Off yu go to Port Moresby
Kam bek gen, kam bek gen
Painim pes solap
Pes solap

Off You Go

Off, off, off you go
Off you go to Port Moresby
When you return
You find your face slapped

Long version.
Duration: 2:47
(2612 kb)

Short version.
Duration: 0:15
(248 kb)

Tok Pisin Hymn

Here is a studio recording of the Tok Pisin hymn Yumi litimapin. I performed it at the Swedish Ukulele Festival in Göteborg (before an audience of 3000 people) since I deemed it appropriate given that the ukulele is a common instrument in Papua New Guinea. A week after the festival I recorded it in the In The Labyrinth studio. Below are pictures from the concert and the studio session.

Robert Eklund by Marcus Lundberg 03

Robert Eklund with Eagle ukulele

Robert Eklund with Applause ukulele

Yumi litimapim

Yumi litimapim God papa antap tru
Long hamamas na gutpela bel

Holi spirit i movim yumi nau
Yumi givim big nem na glori long en
Preisim God papa antap


Eagle ukulele
Voice track

Applause ukulele
“electric” tracks


Airport Corpus

During my last visit – December 1999 to February 2000 – I recorded 39 speakers as they were booking or confirming flight at the Air Niugini sales office, Kavieng Airport.

Kavieng Airport Main Building Kavieng Airport main building.
Air Niugini Sales Office Air Niugini sales office, Kavieng Airport.
No ken spet Sign, Kavieng Airport “NOTICE. Chewing and spitting of betelnut is prohibited in the airport area”. Sign at Kavieng Airport.

I spent several days at the Air Niugini Sales Office, and asked entering customers whether I could record their conversations with the travel agents, and everyone happily agreed. (Mind you, people in Papua New Guinea are very familiar with linguists.)

Me recording customer at Kavieng Airport Me recording customer at Air Niugini sales office, Kavieng Airport, January, 2000.

The data have been used/analysed in three articles so far. The numbering is the same as the one found on the Publications Page.


Eklund, Robert. 2001.
Prolongations: A dark horse in the disfluency stable.
Proceedings of DiSS '01 Disfluency in Spontaneous Speech, ISCA Tutorial and Research Workshop, University of Edinburgh, August 29–31, 2001, pp. 5–8.


Eklund, Robert. 2000.
Crosslinguistic Disfluency Modeling: A Comparative Analysis of Swedish and Tok Pisin Human–Human ATIS Dialogues.
Proceedings of ICSLP’00, Beijing, 16–20 October, vol. 2, pp. 991–994.


Eklund, Robert. 2000.
Wanpela deitabeis long Tok Pisin bilong baim tiket bilong balus. (An ATIS database in Tok Pisin.) Methodological observations with regard to the collection of human–human data.
Proc. Fonetik 2000, The Swedish Phonetics Conference, May 24–26 2000, University of Skövde, pp. 49–52.

One of the customers was Dicks Thomas, co-author of the book I used to study Tok Pisin prior to my first visit, i.e., A New Course in Tok Pisin, by Tom Dutton and Dicks Thomas. Dicks kindly gave me the permission to put a sample from his conversation with Loris (who already had given me the permission to use the sound files, of course).

Dicks can be contacted by email.

Download a one minute excerpt from the table below. Thanks go to Eva Lindström for transcription assistance, and to Dicks for checking the accuracy of the final transcription and translation.

Dicks Thomas making inquiries at Kavieng Airport Travel agent Loris and customer Dicks Thomas.

Transcription & Translation Sound Files


Ahm, wanpela sit i stap lo fotint.
Hmm, there is a seat on the 14th.

Duration: 0:55.
(1088 kb.)
D: Oke, putim mi lo dispela.
OK, put me on that one.
  Ating bihain long apinun o tumora mi ...
Perhaps later this afternoon or tomorrow I...

Duration: 0:55.
(1739 kb.)
  ... mi gat wanpela tiket bai mi...
... I’ve got a ticket that I...
  ... mi no bin yusim from Lae kam long hia.
... I haven’t used it from Lae to here.
L: OK. Em i bilong go long we? Lae o Mosbi?
OK. What’s its destination? Lae or Port Moresby?
D: No, long hia i go long Mosbi.
No, from here to Port Moresby.
L: Oke.
D: So tiket mi toktok long en, mi holim long Mosbi,
So the ticket I’m talking about, I had it from Port Moresby,
  ... i kam bilong Kavieng tasol mi bin wokabaut long narapela rot.
... to Kavieng, but I’ve come here by another way.
L: Ah, oke, oke.
Ah, OK, OK.
D: Iya. Bai yumi senisim, tasol.
Yeah, we’ll just change it.
L: So yu holim tiket i stap? Tasol em i...?
So you’ve got a ticket? But it...
D: Ti... tiket i stap ... mi no karim i kam, mi raunraun tasol...
I’ve got a ti... ticket ... I didn’t bring it, I was just out...
  ... na mi tok orait, bai mi painim dispela wanpela ... sit ...
... and I thought I’d go get this ... a seat ...
  ... na bai i rediim i stap
... and they can prepare it.
  Ating apinun o tumora bai mi kam kisim.
Maybe this afternoon or tomorrow I’ll come and get it.
L: OK, bai mi givim yu kopi long buking. Yu weit.
OK. I’ll give you a copy of the reservation. Just a minute.
D: Yes. Oke.
Yes. OK.

Malaria Comic

For a language sample, here is an informative comic strip on malaria.

Malaria Comic Strip

Tok Pisin Speech Synthesis

I’ve created what I believe to be the world’s first Tok Pisin speech synthesizer. Download sound files from the table below. Beware of a strong Swedish accent!!

Tok Pisin Sentence Sound Files

Mi laik painim ron bilong balus i kirap long Fraide.
(I would like a flight that departs on Friday.)

[NIST/Sphere] [mp3]

Hamas bilong baim tiket i go long Mosbi?
(How much does a ticket to Port Moresby cost?)
[NIST/Sphere] [mp3]

I gat sampela sit i stap long dispela ron bilong balus?
(Are there any seats left on that flight?)
[NIST/Sphere] [mp3]

Raitim olgeta flait long Kavieng i go long Mosbi i gat stap long Manus na Madang.
(List all flights from Kavieng to Port Moresby with stopovers in Manus and Madang.)
[NIST/Sphere] [mp3]

Wanem taim bai mi lusim dispela hap?
(What time do I leave?)

[NIST/Sphere] [mp3]

Speech-to-Speech Translation

In 1998, I whipped together (with a lot of help from my friends!) an automatic speech-to-speech translation system from Swedish to Tok Pisin. The paper was presented in poster form at the International Conference on Spoken Language Processing in Sydney, December 1998. Here are a couple of pictures from that event.

Tok Pisin Poster 1 Me presenting my Tok Pisin poster at ICSLP’98 in Sydney. I’m wearing a laplap. Listener: David House, KTH
Tok Pisin Poster 2 Ditto. Listener: Gösta Bruce, Lund University

Download the poster, and/or download the full paper:


Eklund, Robert. 1998.
“Ko Tok Ples Ensin bilong Tok Pisin” or the TP-CLE: A first report from a pilot speech-to-speech translation project from Swedish to Tok Pisin.
Proceedings of ICSLP 98, Sydney, November 30 – December 5. Paper 804, Vol. 4, pp. 1131–1134.
CD-ROM from Causal Productions Pty Ltd, PO Box 100,

Download a sample sound file from the table below.

Swedish-to-Tok Pisin Translation Sound Files

Visa flighter som går från Boston till San Francisco på tisdag.

[NIST/Sphere] [mp3]
Soim ol ron bilong balus i lusim Boston i go long San Francisco long Tunde
(Show flights from Boston to San Francisco on Tuesday.)

Tok Pisin Literature List

Here is a listing of literature on, or in, Tok Pisin. I have not included literature on pidgin/creole languages in general, even though they might include some information on Tok Pisin (a paragraph or chapter or so), but instead concentrated on works devoted mainly to Tok Pisin. I have not seen all the works with my own eyes, so I can’t vouch for the relevance of all the titles listed below, some of which are extremely hard to find, at least from my position in Sweden.

I would like to thank the following people for the assistance: Eva Lindström, Peter Mühlhäusler, Mikael Parkvall, Malcolm Ross and Craig Volker.

If you know about literature on, or in, Tok Pisin which is not found on this list, please send me an email at and I’ll add it forthwith.

Click here for the full Tok Pisin Bibliography.

Tok Pisin Links

Here are some links on Tok Pisin.
Here is a good Tok Pisin link:

... and here you can read Hail Mary in Tok Pisin.

If you want to listen to Tok Pisin, you can always use the Radio Australia Tok Pisin Service.

For a large number of good links, go to Kami Wantok's Forum.

Here is a Pidgin–English Dictionary.

Karl J. Franklin discusses some lexicographic considerations for Tok Pisin.

The personal web site of Thomas H. Slone, where you could also find a bibliography of Melanesian Pidgin English dictionaries, phrase books and study guides

Robert Eklund’s Homepage