LINGUIST List 6.965

Tue Jul 11 1995

Sum: Tok Masta - an addition to summary

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. JAKOB LADEFOGED, Tok Masta - an addition to summary

Message 1: Tok Masta - an addition to summary

Date: Tue, 11 Jul 1995 13:15:00 Tok Masta - an addition to summary
Subject: Tok Masta - an addition to summary

This mail is an addition to the summary of sources on Tok Masta, Foreigner
Talk (?) of New Guinea, which I not long time ago. The message was not in-
cluded in the summary, because of a few problems with my adress.
It seems very relevant to the subject to me - thanks a lot to Robert Mannell
<"> for sending it:

>I don't have any references, but when I was in Papua New Guinea in 1974/75
>I often heard this term. I spent several months trekking in the New Guinea
>central highlands. The term was sometimes used by local people in response
>to hearing English being spoken and was sometimes used when Tok Pisin (then
>called Tok Pidgin) was being spoken poorly by a native speaker of English.
>In this second case the form of Tok Pisin being spoken was strongly
>contaminated by Australian English pronunciation and by the use of extra
>English words which were not then current in Tok Pisin (what effect this
>had on the subsequent development of Tok Pisin vocabulary I do not know).
>To summarize:
> Tok Masta == English Tok Masta == heavily Anglicised Tok Pisin (whic
h may have
> like English to the local people) You may recall
> various studies of the English-Creole continuum in
> Jamaica where "broad" Creole speakers believed that
> their somewhat anglicised Creole was actually
> English.
> Tok Masta == any other non-PNG language being spoken by a
> European (???) This is possible, but I don't
> recall ever hearing it used this way.
>Other terms that I heard which also referred to English were:-
> Tok Place bilong Masta
> Place Tok bilong Masta
>"Tok Place" and "Place Tok" appeared to be used interchangeably and referred
>to the local language at the place of birth of the person being referred to.
>This term, when used generically, distinguished between the Lingua Franca, Tok
>Pisin and the person's own first language. Therefore, it can be assumed that
>the use of the term "Tok place bilong masta" was intended to mean the language
>spoken at the place of birth of the foreigner.
>The term "masta" was always a term that I had great difficulty with when I
>was in PNG. On a number of occasions I asked local speakers what they thought
>the word meant. In no cases did they associate the word with meanings similar
>to the English word "master" and simply saw it as a term for male Europeans or
>"white skins" as they called us (less formally). It may be that local people
>working on plantations in areas such as New Britain may have used the word
>differently as in such regions the Europeans were very much more in control.
>In the Central Highlands the people were extremely independant. They did
>have some experience of working for Europeans however but in such cases the
>correct term for their employer was usually "boss" or "boss man" (a term
>also used to refer to village elders). The term "masta" was reserved as a
>generic term for all Europeans, not just their employers. "Masta" could be
>used to refer to Europeans in the abstract, to a particular group of Europeans
>or (in my experience, most commonly) as a form of address to a specific
>European (eg I was often greeted as follows:- "Api nun masta" =
>"Good afternoon <masta>")
>I hope this is of some use to you.
>Dr Robert H. Mannell
>Speech, Hearing and Language Research Centre
>Macquarie University
>Sydney, NSW, 2109, Australia.
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