Category Archives: Bislama
On Bislama (9-30)
Here is where I geek out a little about language. Bislama is awesome. It is definitely an English derivative, and it is also definitely not English. Most of the verbs are the same, just add –em to the end. (Or –im, -um, depending on the word.) In fact, most of the vocabulary is very similar it just gets weird once in a while. For instance, the word for sweet is sweet but the word for bitter is concon. Go figure.
The language itself is almost intentionally easy. It is the second, third and is some cases fourth language for nearly everyone, which means any sort of complexity has been edited out. It is in fact, frustratingly non-specific. Our teacher told us that it is a descriptive language as opposed to English which is an indicative language. In English, we can talk, tell, say, chat, gossip, converse, blather, rant, speak or any number of other things, each of which has a different context and a different connotation. In Bislama, you can telem, toktok or storian. Any time noise comes out of your mouth, you are toktok. If you are making conversation, you are storian. If you say it to someone, you are telem. Similarly, any bird is a pidgin, except chickens which are faol or lokalfaol. There is also wildfaol, which seems to be some sort of native wild chicken like bird that I haven’t yet seen. That means there is pidgin blong solwota (bird of the ocean) or green pidgin (green bird, also called a parrot but it isn’t that either) or bigfala pidgin (big bird). You spend a lot of time talking around something to get to a coherent thought. (Very few of my thoughts are coherent these days. You try thinking in two languages at once while watching chickens and dogs and children do strange things.)
It has a pretty basic grammar pattern (subject+predicate marker+verb+object) with straightforward phrases. The predicate marker is one of the more interesting features. To make a word a verb, you put ‘I’ in front. So the word for eat and food is kakake. To say “you eat” you say yu I kakae. To say “you eat food” you say yu I kakae kakae. So once you’ve determined what the verb is by shoving an I in front, then you change tenses by sticking in other words. To form the future tense, you add bae (pronounces bay) to the front of the sentence. The form the past tense you put bin (pronounced bin) between the predicate marker and the verb. Basically, none of the words change from their root form. Everything is done by adding in other words. As long as you know to root words and the markers that make changes, you know the language.
Jason wants to point out that all plurals are formed by adding the pural marker ol or the number/amount to the front of the word. For example, wan manioc, tu manioc, sum manioc,ol manioc, which is “one manioc, two manioc, some manioc, maniocs.”
Some other time I will try to explain long and blong. They cover pretty much every preposition and several other connective words.