While English is the official language of the Solomon Islands, Pijin is clearly the ‘unofficial’ national language.
It is the common language of the Solomons, spoken and understood by almost everyone in the country. It is the language of gossip, jokes, the market, the bus stop, the bar.
Until recently Pijin has almost entirely been a spoken language.
Sometimes home-made signs and advertising billboards written for the public are in Pijin e.g “No torowe rabis lo hia” (don’t litter here) or “No kaon” (no loans/credit), but national newspapers, official paperwork, road signs, and public notices are all usually written in English.
The lack of ‘official’ status has allowed Pijin to evolve free from the constraints and rules of perceived ‘correct’ use (including spelling!) and allowed it to develop into a vibrant, expressive and rapidly changing spoken language.
Mobile phones are hugely popular in the Solomon Islands, it was estimated in 2014 that 93% of households owned at least one mobile phone (up from 49% in 2007).
Mobile phones are revolutionising many things in the Solomons like banking, communication, elections and the spread of information into remote areas.
Mobile phones have even been blamed for the rise of ’02-ism’ (02 is Pijin slang for the sneaky extra girlfriend/boyfriend ‘on the side’, especially dual sim phones – sim 1 for ‘misus’ and sim 2 for ’02’ so the story goes).
Using social media forums such as Facebook is popular but sending SMS texts is the most popular, mainly because text messages are cheaper than making calls.
This popularity has seen an interesting evolution in the Pijin language because perhaps for the first time Pijin is being widely used by speakers as a genuine written language.
It could even be argued that SMS and internet Pijin is the first “real” version of written pijin!
So, just like the abbreviated language that has developed around English SMS and chat forums such as omg, lol, wtf, brb, Solomon pijin has and is developing its own abbreviations or “sotkats” (short cuts).
For example the word “nomoa” (originally from the English ‘no more’ but meaning ‘no’, ‘just’, ‘only’, or ‘thats all’ in Pijin) is simply written as ‘nma’ , or “olsem” (originally from the English ‘all the same’ but meaning, ‘similar’, ‘like this/ that’ in Pijin), is written as “osm”.
The interesting result is that many SMS and chat messages in written pijin are almost entirely unrecognisable from their English origins but still clear to Pijin speakers.
An example of a Pijin sentence using sotkats “hm bara ngd spos ota beliga ba spoelm ples dstm” is not recognisable from the Engilsh translation “it’d be really bad if the ruffians ruined the place this time” but the un-abbreviated ‘correct’ Pijin# “hem barava nogud sapos olgeta beliga bae spoelem ples distaem” is maybe a little more recognisable?
Anyway, without the constraints of any official correct spelling or pronunciation it is interesting to see how the internet and mobile phones are both bringing Pijin closer to English and taking it away in its own special way fitim fo Solomons.
I have tried to compile below a rough ‘dictionary’ of common pijin SMS / chat sotkats. If you’re trying to learn Pijin this might help you understand Pijin used in SMS and chat forums, if you already know Pijin the meanings of these abbreviations are obvious, and if you don’t know any Pijin you’ll see how far Pijin really is from the maligned broken English… and maybe what a cool, living, growing and free language it really is.
Hm nma stori fns naya.
Writing in the Pineapple Post