LINGUIST List 15.1342

Wed Apr 28 2004

Review: Socioling: M�hlh�usler, Dutton & Romaine (2003)

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  1. Miriam Meyerhoff, Tok Pisin Texts

Message 1: Tok Pisin Texts

Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2004 12:58:08 -0400 (EDT)
From: Miriam Meyerhoff <Miriam.Meyerhoffed.ac.uk>
Subject: Tok Pisin Texts

EDITORS: Muehlhaeusler, Peter; Dutton, Thomas E.; Romaine, Suzanne
TITLE: Tok Pisin Texts
SUBTITLE: From the beginning to the present
SERIES: Varieties of English around the world (T9)
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2003
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-3502.html


Miriam Meyerhoff, University of Edinburgh.


DESCRIPTION 

''Tok Pisin Texts'' (TPT) is a collaborations between three scholars
who have long-standing connections with linguistics in Papua New
Guinea. Collectively they have a comprehensive record of publications
on the language now known as Tok Pisin. Tok Pisin is the
English-lexified lingua franca spoken in all parts of Papua New
Guinea, but especially in the areas corresponding to the former German
New Guinea (p.2). TPT provides a brief overview of the social and
linguistic development of Tok Pisin and then moves on to provide many
examples of Tok Pisin texts that the editors have collected, starting
with a text written in 1844 and culminating with short stories,
cartoons and personal notes and letters written in the late 1980s.

The volume begins with a short chapter ''Sociohistorical and
grammatical aspects of Tok Pisin'' (Muehlhaeusler). This chapter first
outlines the social context in which Tok Pisin has developed and
observes that despite the tendency to differentiate between the Tok
Pisin spoken on the coast, in the Highlands and in the Bismarck
archipelago ''[l]exical differences within Papua New Guinea are due
less to geographical than to social factors'' (p.3), consequently
M. suggests that the more ''important subdivision of Tok Pisin is into
the four main sociolects ... bush pidgin ... traditional rural Tok
Pisin ... the urban version ... and lastly 'Tok Masta' ('language of
the white colonizers')'' (p.4). Reference and language learning
resources are summarised (p.2). The history of Papua New Guinea since
colonisation is reviewed briefly, concluding with a picture of Tok
Pisin that has the language sitting in a sociolinguistically
interesting space -- both expanding in some communities, and
retreating in others in the face of competition with English and local
vernaculars (p.8).

The chapter then turns to a structural sketch of Tok Pisin, with
sections on phonology (covering well-known features such as epenthetic
vowels and the loss of English interdental and palato-alevolar
fricatives). The next section discusses inflectional morphology and
notes the polyfunctional nature of some forms, e.g., the occurrence of
the suffix '-pela' with more than just adjectives. The section on
syntax looks at the pronoun system which, like the other English-
lexified pidgins/creoles in Melanesia (Solomons Pijin and Bislama in
Vanuatu), indexes semantic features occurring in the substrate
languages (viz. inclusive/exclusive distinction in first person; dual
and trial forms). The inventory and use of interrogative and reflexive
pronouns is discussed next, and the structure of the noun phrase is
very briefly noted.

The verb phrase describes the structure of common declarative
sentences, and their expansion with the negator 'no' and time, manner,
place adverbials. Tense and aspect marking are not covered at all;
instead the reader is referred to earlier work by M. This section
finishes with a discussion of co-ordination and a range of subordinate
clause constructions (including conditionals, quotative constructions
and experiencer verbs).

The structural description as a whole concludes with a section on the
lexicon (an area that M. has done a good deal of work on in the past
(see for instance Wurm & Muehlhaeusler 1985). This is the most
substantial of the sections in the grammatical component of the
chapter and covers four issues that are often considered to be
prototypical of pidgins, including the simplification of the lexicon
compared to the lexifier, impoverished (or non- existent) ''word
formation component'' and reduplicated forms (p.25).

The chapter concludes with a few comments on how the texts that follow
were gathered and how they might be used. M. reports that the texts
were chosen so as to ''cover the full range of variation found in Tok
Pisin, both along its historical and its social and stylistic axes''
(p.33). However, the reader is cautioned against using these texts
alone as the basis for quantitative research.

The rest of the book is made up of 100 texts, some quite short and
some running to more than four pages. A short contextual note usually
introduces each item and the text that follows is given an interlinear
gloss (the earliest texts do not have interlinear glosses because they
follow English-like spelling norms and anglicised grammar), and a free
prose translation of the text into English. Most texts also have some
commentary about aspects of the Tok Pisin that are linguistically
noteworthy, e.g. internal variability that is characteristic or
unusual for the period, early attestations of a form, socially
significant (or regionally telling) lexical choices. Reference is made
to ''standard spelling conventions'' (p.161) but these are not spelled
out in TPT.

The texts are grouped into nine parts. The first part is 15 texts from
1840s through to c.1921 (''From early contacts and 'Gut Taim bilong
Siaman'''). Part 2 is 6 texts from 1920-1945 (''Indigenous
voices''). Part 3 (''The use of Tok Pisin by missions and
government'') has 7 texts, and Part 4 is two texts from the
1950s-60s. Part 5 (''Traditional indigenous voice 1970 to the
present'') has 21 texts of a mixed nature: several are narratives
about traditional practices or old war stories, some are interviews,
and some are snippets from people goofing around. A number provide
quite explicit information on the metalinguistic awareness of speakers
and beliefs about the origin and spread of Tok Pisin.

Part 6 (''Translations of foreign voices'') has 12 texts that are
translations from English, German or Japanese (everything from the
Bible and the highway code through to a propaganda leaflet). Parts 7
and 8 include texts more or less directly influenced by contact with
qEnglish. Seven oral texts in ''Urban Tok Pisin and the influence of
English'' and 23 written texts in ''New written genres'' are intended
to give readers of TPT a sense of the extensive linguistic
consequences of extended contact between Tok Pisin and English in
urban areas. Finally, part 10 (''Creolized varieties of Tok Pisin'')
provides 6 narratives and one conversation between a linguist
(Romaine) and two girls about what languages they know.

EVALUATION

A very nice aspect of TPT is the wide range of genres covered and the
social information that the editors have included in their
commentaries, e.g. conventions for pronoun use when these are flouted
in a text, how surprise noises are made by interviewees, the
denotation and use of kinship terms. The focus on social variation is
also welcome, though readers specifically interested in variation in
Tok Pisin would find Smith's recent book (2002) a valuable one to read
alongside TPT. Although M. claims geographic distinctions are less
important than social ones, Smith shows that in a very large corpus of
Tok Pisin, quite marked regional variation emerges, e.g. in the use of
many tense, aspect and mood particles ('bai' irrealis, 'bin' past,
'pinis' completed action, and 'wok long' continuous). Smith also
provides more references to important work that has been undertaken on
the structural development of Tok Pisin, e.g. by Sankoff (1986) and
Mosel (1980, a very important work on substrate influences on Tok
Pisin which fails to make it into the TPT list of references). The use
of commentaries to focus on specific aspects of each text was also
generally helpful and in some cases serve to advance the field, such
as when the editors draw attention to a feature that has struck them
impressionistically and recommend it for further study.

One question that might have been addressed directly in the
commentaries is the how and when the editors decided to represent fast
speech effects or on-going grammaticalisation and change in the spoken
texts. For the texts to be maximally useful to linguists, it would be
useful to know what criteria determined whether a word would be
represented orthographically in a reduced form. 'Mitupela' ('we,
dual') on p.192 is given a footnote saying it was actually pronounced
'mitala' (p.194, see similarly fn.2 p.124). To give another example,
readers do not know how it was determined to represent the
prepositions 'bilong' and 'long' as 'blo' and 'lo'. It appears that
the proportion of 'blo' users is higher in the later texts but this
might be for several reasons: (i) it might reflect across the board
changes in the language; (ii) it might be because the researcher who
gathered those particular texts was more interested and attentive to
such reduced forms; or (iii) it might be an age-graded tendency
highlighted in these texts because the speakers are younger. This is a
good example of why the editors caution against taking the texts as a
statistically representative sample of the language and it is to be
hoped that users of TPT will bear this in mind. Again, Smith's (2002)
recent descriptive grammar provides considerable evidence about the
phonological reduction characteristic of adolescents' L1 Tok Pisin and
would be a helpful complementary resource to TPT.

In one case, the footnoting raises more questions than it may answer.
On p.272 we find the phrase ''Em lai karim'' ('he wants to carry')
with the note that 'lai' is ''a reduced form of 'laik'''. The reader
might very reasonably ask how one could know if 'laik' has been
reduced here since it is in a neutralising
environment. Cross-referencing between texts might have been helpful
in clarifying how widespread this phenomenon is, or more explicit
referencing to Romaine's (1999) work on reduction of verbal
auxiliaries.

The production of the book is generally very good and the graphics are
clearly reproduced. There are some unfortunate typos. Some capitalised
'I's appear where they should be lower case 'i' (the predicate
marker), p.10 -- this is the long arm of Word's Autocorrect function,
which is a pain to anyone working with Melanesian creoles. There are
several occasions where the first person pronoun 'mi' is rendered as
'me' (p.19, 24, 250) and 'Rzga' appears as 'Raga' (p.270), 'tzsol' as
'tasol' (p.223). The gloss for 'aiting', 'perhaps', is missing its
single quotes (p.37). There appears to be a total scrambling between
example and discussion on p.23 where the base sentence ''mi laik yu
givim mani mi'' ('I want you give money me' [sic.], MM's gloss)
becomes ''Mi laik yu mas givim mi long mani'', glossed as 'I want you
to give me money' (but looks more like 'must give me to the money'). I
don't speak Tok Pisin but this seems to be a real snafu.

On its own, TPT needs to be used by researchers with some sensitivity.
For this reason I would not recommend TPT as a source text for
students in, e.g., a pidgins and creoles course and certainly not as a
first port of call. However, used in conjunction with Wurm &
Muehlhaeusler 1985, Romaine 1992 and Smith 2002, TPT provides a sound
basis for researchers interested in exploring the structure and use of
one of the world's best known expanded pidgins/creoles.

REFERENCES

Mosel, Ulrike 1980. Tolai and Tok Pisin: The influence of the
substratum on the development of New Guinea Pidgin. Canberra: Pacific
Linguistics.

Romaine, Suzanne. 1992. Language, education and development: Urban and
rural Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Romaine, Suzanne 1999. The grammaticalization of the proximative in
Tok Pisin. Language, 75. 322-346.

Sankoff, Gillian 1986. The social Life of Language. Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press.

Smith, Geoffrey P. 2002. Growing up with Tok Pisin: Contact,
creolization and change in Papua New Guinea's national language.
Westminster: Battlebridge Publications.

Wurm, Stephen A. and Peter Muehlhaeusler 1985. Handbook of Tok Pisin.
Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Miriam Meyerhoff is Reader in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at
the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests are in the areas
of variation and change in Pacific creoles (especially Bislama) and
the study of language and gender.
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