Where does one begin to find the words? (Part One) ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, July 14, 2017

In the overall scheme of things Pitkern-Nor’k is a very new language; and for this reason alone it makes it an interesting subject for linguists to study.  The main living languages in the world today was here long before we came on the scene and for academics and more serious-minded human beings relatively ‘new’ languages such as Pitkern-Norf’k offer an intriguing and rarely presented opportunity to study language development.

There are indicators which help us to understand how languages, old and new are formed in the first place; the impetus for development, the rate of development, and what influences and factors are at play in their formation and in their maintenance.  For over ten years now I have been collecting words, phrases and idioms, simply because I find Pitkern-Norf’k extremely fascinating, but probably also because I also like the way words can paint pictures and the pictures that the Norf’k language in particular paint appeal very strongly to my sentimental self and my sense of family and belonging.  About two years ago now, as my little word pile became a mountainous muddle, I noticed a very curious trend emerging; the prevalence of a core body of root words and a propensity to word-build around a group of these simple high frequency words or concepts.  This was a real revelation to me and although I may well be misguided in my thinking it appears to me that this is one of the very strong indicators as to how the Pitkern-Norf’k language may have emerged during the early years of isolation on Pitcairn Island lies with these foundation words.  For twenty years the Englishmen of the north and Polynesians of the south and their off-spring on Pitcairn Island saw no-one else but each other – plenty of time to work out who was going to dig the yams for dinner and to call a family meeting to iron out any ‘residual issues’ which might have arisen from such directives.  Irrespective of who were the linguistic socialisers a deal of diglossic word selection would certainly have gone on during this time to arrive at a point of mutual intelligibility.

If you have ever shared a roof with someone who does not speak the same language or does not have the same or a similar cultural background as you; if you have ever dated or married someone from another part of the world, travelled to a country where you do not speak their language, and they could not speak yours then you will understand a little of the problems and complexities relating to the cultural and linguistic barriers and challenges in communication which may have occurred during those early years on Pitcairn Island.

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