LINGUIST List 6.900

Tue Jun 27 1995

Sum: Tok Masta

Editor for this issue: Anthony M. Aristar <>


  1. JAKOB LADEFOGED, Summary of responses to query on Tok Masta (FT of New Guinea)

Message 1: Summary of responses to query on Tok Masta (FT of New Guinea)

Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1995 13:03:00 BST
Subject: Summary of responses to query on Tok Masta (FT of New Guinea)
Almost two months ago I posted the following query to the list:
>I am posting this for a fellow student who is not on the list.
>She seeks references of sources of the so-called "Tok Masta", the Foreigner
>Talk of Europeans on New Guinea (Probably, I guess, involved in the genesis
>of, but still to be kept apart from, Tok Pisin).
>She would be especially interested in where to get actual examples of Tok
>Masta. So far her main source - not containing examples - is an article by
>Peter Muelhaeusler (1981) "Foreigner Talk: Tok Masta in New Guinea" in
>'International Journal of Sociology of Language - 28", pp. 93-113.
We did get some responses to the query, but eventually my friend had to
postpone the project to a not-too-near future. It seems then, that there
won't be any further information to add to what we have got here, but I
guess what we have here might be of interest to others:
August Cluver <>
>Our departmental database on the sociology of language (750
>pages) shows up only the article by Muehlhaesler that you
>have if we search under "Tok Masta". He has published
>widely on Tok Pisin and probably refers to this variety in his
>other publications.
>The phenomenon that your friend is analysing occurs also in
>KiSwahili (if I remember correctly) and the following source
>may provide some comparative material:
>Vitale, A.J. 1980 "Kisetla: linguistic and sociolinguistic
>aspects of a pidgin Swahili of Kenya." In: Anthropological
>linguistics 22, 2: 47-65.
>From David Ganelin <> we got:
>Ronald Wardhaugh has a few references to Tok Pisin and Tok Masta in his
>_An Introduction to Sociolinguistics_ (Second Edition), Blackwell,
>Oxford, England and Cambridge, Massachusetts (1992). Also, he refers to
>an article by E. Wolfers ("A Report on Neo-Melanesian") in D.H. Hymes
>(ed.) _Pidginization and Creolization of Languages_, Cambridge University
>Press (1971). Hope this helps.
B. Robert Helm <> writes:
>There was some discussion of Tok Masta in:
>S. A. Wurm, P. Muehlhaeusler. _Handbook of Tok Pisin (New Guinea
>Pidgin)_. Canberra, A. C. T., Australia: Dept. of Linguistics,
>Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University,
Jan Tent <> suggested that:
>You might get some help from Prof. John Lynch who used to be the
>professor of linguistics at UPNG. He's not on the LINGUIST list, so send
>him your original e-mail to this address:
>Tell him I gave you his e-mail address.
>You might also try Jeff Siegel at:
>Hope these guys will be able to help you, if not they certainly will be
>able to put you onto someone who will.
Elisabeth Gordon <>:
>I have a small booklet on Pidgin English produced during the last war. On
>the front page it says: 'This language is used in conversation with Natives,
>Asiatics, and German White Misionaries.' I'm not sure if it is what you
>want, but if you would like I could photocopy it and send it to you. It was
>written to help soldiers during the war. The booklet itself is now very
>fragile. I use it in my sociolinguistics classes here to show early
>attitudes both to the language and those who spoke it.
>e.g. some general advice - 'Don't interfere with village pigs. This would be
>nearly as bad as interfering with the women.'
> Muelhaeusler, whom your student refers to, and Wurm have edited a
>of Tok Pisin (New Guinea Pidgin) published by Pacific Linguistics, C-70, 1985.
>Muelhaeusler claims (p. 236) that Tok Masa is "A fourth variety [of TP, after
>Bush, Rural and Urban] used by many expatriates..." and that it "is the name
>given by Papua New Guineans to the domestic jargon used by the majority of
>expatriates in dealing with their indigenous employees or servants" (241).
>Elsewhere (286) he claims that Tok Masta "seems to be of quite recent origin"
>and was tied to the self-awareness preceding independence.
> I worked in PNG with SIL from 1958 until 1990 and have studied and
>worked on Pidgin. I think that the term Tok Masta contrasts with Tok Boi, the
>former referring to the whites and the latter to the PNGs, but both used in a
>derogatory or condesending sense. Baorchardt (1926) refers to Tok-boi as "a
>kanaka language" but it was traditionally male, hence the term "boi", just as
>Tok Masta was mainly "male", in that expatariate females are "misis".
> Muelhaeusler's four sociolects of TP do not show up in the folk
>classification of the Pidgin speakers. For example there is no equivalent of
>"rural pidgin" in TP, whereas one can speak of urban pidgin as "su sok" pidgin
>or even "taun pidgin". The generic term "tok pidgin" can refer to almost any
>variety. Mead (in Asia 31, 1931) also discusses "Tok Boi", which I see
>the opposite of "Tok Masta".
> M discusses mixed varieties of TP, which TM certainly was (or is), bau
>this includes mixing TP with the vernacular, as is commonly done now. This is
>called "hap toktok".
> M says that TM was for a long time called "Tok Vaitman" by PNGs (467,
>says until the mid 1920-s) but the spelling suggests Tok Siaman (German
Paul Gracie <> (Keo Sananikone) sent:
> I did a literature review on foreigner talk two years ago
>(for a chapter in my dissertation on ft in Malaysia) and my impression is
>that the Muelhaeusler article you mention is a 'one of a kind'. There may
>be resources at ANU which could be used for further work on a historical
>register of ft in PNG, but if it is like historical pidgin English sources
>here in Hawai'i, your friend would have to go to Canberra and spend time
>digging for it. I was very interested in the Tok Masta article too but
>almost all work with ft in linguistics defines the foreigner role as
>immigrant student (in the U.S., Canada, and Australia) or immigrant worker
>'auslandischer arbeiter'(?) (in Northern Europe).
> If your friend is determined to pursue Tok Masta, she
>might consider writing to Suzanne Romaine (Merton College, University of
>Oxford, Oxford OX1 4JD, England) or Peter M.(ANU?) directly.
thanks again to everybody who responded, I hope this can be of some use to
other people interested in that matter
Jakob Ladefoged
(till app. 25/7: <> )
University of Amsterdam
The Netherlands
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