Reduction in Vocabulary

  • Pidgins show reduction in vocabulary:

(A click on the link will direct you to the relevant pidgin/creole text containing the examples presented here.)

(a) Pidgins have an overall small stock of words

  • The number of compounds, prepositions and postpositions is reduced in the lexicons of pidgins. Frequently, there are so-called all-purpose prepositions which shape the lexicon of a pidgin language:

  • Tok Pisin makes use of the preposition 'long' which can be translated into English as 'in, on, at' etc.

ol meri long kantri
all woman along country
'all women in the country'

long wanpela woksop long Alotau
along one-fellow workshop along Alotau
'in a workshop at Alotau'

Bung i bin stat long Mande
Meeting he been start along Monday
'The meeting began on Monday'

  • West African Pidgin English features the preposition 'for' indicating location which means 'in, at, on, to' etc.

Wetin you dey find for home?
'What are you finding at home?'

for Argentina
in Argentina

  • Multifunctionality:

Multifunctionality of words helps to compensate for the small size of a pidgin lexicon. Multifunctionality means that the same lexical item is used or functions in several syntactic categories. For instance, in Tok Pisin the word kaikai can denote either 'food' or 'to eat'.

There are similar cases in English, like a run (N) versus to run (V) etc.

  • Extension of Meanings:

In other cases, the meaning of a word is extended so that it can cover several concepts. In Tok Pisin, the word 'lek' can mean 'leg', 'foot', 'hind leg' or 'footprint'. Likewise, nil covers the semantic range of the English 'nail', 'needle', 'thorn', 'syringe' or 'bodkin'.

(Information taken and adapted from Sebba, 1997)