Torres Strait Creole
Torres Strait Creole is an English-based creole language
Creole language
A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable natural language developed from the mixing of parent languages; creoles differ from pidgins in that they have been nativized by children as their primary language, making them have features of natural languages that are normally missing from...

 spoken on several Torres Strait Islands
Torres Strait Islands
The Torres Strait Islands are a group of at least 274 small islands which lie in Torres Strait, the waterway separating far northern continental Australia's Cape York Peninsula and the island of New Guinea but Torres Strait Island known and Recognize as Nyumaria.The islands are mostly part of...

Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

), Northern Cape York and South-Western Coastal Papua. It has approximately 25 000 mother-tongue and bi/tri-lingual speakers, as well as several second/third-language speakers. It is widely used as a language of trade and commerce. It has five main dialects: Papuan, Western-Central, TI, Eastern, and Cape York. Its main characteristics show that it is a Pacific Pidgin, however the future in X [i] go VERB aligns it with Atlantic Creoles. Related languages are Pijin of the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

, Tok Pisin
Tok Pisin
Tok Pisin is a creole spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. It is an official language of Papua New Guinea and the most widely used language in that country...

 of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

, and Bislama of Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

. The other Creoles of Australia (Roper River Kriol etc.) are more distantly related, being descendants of the Pidgin English that developed in and around Sydney after the colonisation of Australia.


Records of pidgin English being used in Torres Strait exist from as early as the 1840s (e.g. Moore 1979), and therefore Torres Strait Creole may very well be as old as, if not older, than its sister languages, and not a descendant of any of these. The main importers of the pidgin were British and other sailors (many of whom were South Sea Islanders, both Melanesian and Polynesian), and therefore Brokan has various characteristics of these different types of Pidgin, the main ones being Singapore Pidgin, Pacific Pidgin and Jamaican Creole. It may have creolised quite early (pre-1900) on Darnley Island, and somewhat later (post-1910) at St Pauls on Moa and on Yorke Island in the Central Islands. Creolisation is post-1960s elsewhere.

The Papuan dialect was replaced by Hiri Motu and Tok Pisin in many parts of its former territory, and now also by Tok Pisin.

Dialect Differences

Dialect differences consist mainly of substrata influences in the various areas where the language is spoken - as well as a certain amount of superstrata influence from English. Apart from accent and intonation, differences are mainly vocabulary used for local fauna, flora and so on, retentions from local indigenous languages or other substrata languages (e.g. Malay), and minor differences in pronunciation due to substrata influences.

The dialects group generally into (a) the Western-Central-Cape York dialects, where the Western and Central Language of Torres Strait (Kala Lagaw Ya) has a strong influence (an influence which is also 'over-powering' other sub-strata influences), 'TI' Brokan, with a strong Malay/Indonesian-Filipino-European influence, Eastern Brokan, with a strong South Seas and Meriam Mìr influence, and Papuan, with strong influences from Kiwai, Motu and (now) Tok Pisin. Influences from other languages such as Japanese are to do with vocabulary specific to Japanese (or the like) items.


The language has the following vowels (please note that there is some dialect difference as well):

high : i, u

mid-high : ù

mid : e, o

low : a, ò

Sounds found in individual dialects:

mid-central : œ - Western-Central-TI-Papuan (in words from English, Kala Lagaw Ya, Agöb, Gidra, Malay and other languages)

mid-high : ì - Eastern (in words from Meriam Mìr)

Vowel length for the language as a whole is non-contrastive, though in some subdialects/dialects it appears to be contrastive.


labial: p, b, m, w

dental: th, dh, n, l

alveolar: t, d, r

alveo-palatal: s, z, y

velar: k, g, ng

The dental-alveolar contrast exists in the Western, Central and Cape York dialects, however only exists in other dialects in so far as either English or Western-Central influences force a contrast, or where the voiced alveolar stop d realises as the rhotic tap r (e.g. Western-Central wasamada what's the matter/what's wrong, Eastern/Papuan wasamara). In the Eastern and Papuan dialects, the only alveolar consonant is r, t and d being dental (i.e. fall together with th and dh).

P, b, th, dh, k and g are aspirated stops (i.e. accompanied by a small 'puff of air'), and also have fully aspirated allophones, particularly p (thus [pʰ] - [ɸ], [bʱ] - [β], [t̪ʰ] - [θ], [d̪ʱ] - [ð], [kʰ] - [x], [ɡʱ] - [ɣ]) while s and z vary in pronunciation between [s/z], [ʃ/ʒ], and [tʃ/dʒ]. These reflect indigenous language allophony as well as a rationalisation of the larger English (and Malay, etc.) consonant phoneme inventory. The consonants t, d, m, n, l, w, y and ng do not have any major allophonic variation, while r varies from flap to trill to rhotic glide.


The following are the forms of the personal pronouns in the Western-Central-Cape York dialects. Where the Eastern dialect is concerned, the dental-alveolar contrast is on the whole non-operative, and the dual forms are less commonly used than elsewhere. Furthermore, the 1-2 form yumi is often used as the general non-singular 1-2 form; and is sometimes used as such in other dialects in rhetorical discourse. The Central Islands dialect (and sometimes others) tends to also use wi for the 1st person plural.
number 1st person 1st-2nd person 2nd Person 3rd Person (identifying) 3rd Person (non-identifying)
singular subject ai - yu em i
singular non-subject (where different) mi - - - em
dual subject mitu yumi yutu dhemtu --
dual object (where different) - - - dhemtu/-emtu --
plural subject mipla yumpla yupla dhempla òl
plural object (where different) - - - dhempla/-empla dhempla/-empla

The demonstrative pronouns:

this, these : full form dhiswan, colloquial form dhisan, reduced, clause initial form san, sa

that, those : full form dhaswan, colloquial form dhasan, reduced, clause initial form san, sa

There is a strong tendency for dhiswan and its forms to be used to the exclusion of dhaswan.

Who is that? Dhaswan i udhat?, Dhiswan dhe i udhat?, Dhasan i udhat?, Dhisan dhe i udhat?, Dhisan i udhat?, San i udhat?

Interrogative Pronouns:

The interrogatives tend to have two forms, in the case of three a reduced clause initial form and a fuller clause final form, as in the following example:

Wane yu lukem? / Yu luk wanem? What do you see?'

a) Two forms according to clause position:

what : wane, wanem

where : we, wea

who : udha, udhat

Similarly, there and here have two forms:

there : dhe, dhea

here : ya, iya

b) Variant words/forms:

when : wataim, wen

why : aukam, wanempò

c) Dialect variation:

how : wiswei, Central Islands waswei

why, what's the matter : wasamada, Eastern-Papuan wasamara


The language has no indefinite article, and uses the definite article much less than it is in English. The definite article has a more demonstrative feel than the English equivalent. There are singular, dual and plural forms:

singular : dha - dha kenu "the canoe"

dual : dhemtu, dhostu - dhemtu kenu "the two canoes"

plural : dhem - dhem kenu "the canoes"

The demonstrative articles similarly have singular, dual and plural forms, as well as variation, with a strong tendency to use the clitics iya and dhea to specify position:

this man : dhis man, dhis man ia

these men (dual) : dhistu man, dhistu man ia, dhemtu man ia

these men (plural) : òl dhis man, òl dhis man ia, òlgedha man ia, òl dhem man ia

that man : dhas/dhat man, dhis man dhea

those men (dual) : dhostu man, dhistu man dhea, dhemtu man dhea

these men (plural) : òl dhas/dhat man, òl dhis man dhea, òlgedha man dhea, òl dhem man dhea


Brokan is a somewhat atypical of Pidgin-Creole languages in its word order and various other syntactic (and grammatical) properties. Though the normal sentence word order is the expected transitive S-V-O-X(-) and intransitive S-V-X(-), there is variation in the form of S-X-V(-O), such as where the directional adverbs dhe there and ia/ya here come before the verb, as happens in all local languages (this is in common with virtually all verb tense/aspect/mood markers in the language).

a) Verb clause strings are normal in the language:

Bala blo mi bi teke kenu kam baik.

My brother brought the canoe back.

Plein i dhe plai go (or) Plein i dhe go plai (or) Plein i plai dhe go (or) Plein i plai go dhea

The plane is flying away (over) there.

The four sentences in Brokan carry a semantic difference difficult to show in the English translation. Plein i dhe go plai is the basic sentence - the plane is flying [away] over there. Plein i plai dhe go is more along the lines of the plane is flying away that way, plein i plai go dhea is the plane is flying away heading that way, and plein i dhe plai go is The plane is there flying away.

b) Unlike many pidgin-creoles, the adjective categorically comes before the noun. Similarly, adverbs that mark adjectives come before the adjective:

Big sisi bl'em bi kese tu prapa big redkala pis lo ausaid sanbaing.

His/her big sister caught two really big red fish at/on the outer sandbank.

Unlike Tok Pisin, Bislama and the Australian creoles, -pla is not used as an adjective formant.

When not before the referent, adjectives are often suffixed by -wan, the adjective nominaliser:

Bala blo mi i bigwan.

My brother is big.

Dhis dhamba ya i prapa naiswan.

This bread is really nice.

c) All verb tense and aspect markers come before the verb (see Verbs below), apart from the clitic nau.

d) A fully operational relative clause structure exists, marked by the relative clause marker we:

Dha totol we ai bi kese em i stap ananith lo aus.

The turtle I caught is under the house.

Ama bin luk wan smol gel we i bin sidaun krai krai krai lo skul blo dhem piknini.

Mum saw a little girl sitting and crying (who was sitting and crying) of the kids' school.

e) Questions vary between using 'English-like' word order, i.e. question word initially, or Kala Lagaw Ya-like word order, i.e. question word order is the same as that of statements. As stated above, the question word has its full form when used clause finally, and a reduced form otherwise. In yes-no questions, statement word order is normal, with the use of a question tag sentence clitic:

We yu go? / Yu go wea?
Where are you going?

Udha nem blo yu? / Nem blo yu udhat?
What's your name?

Wataim em i go kam bai'gen? / Em i go kam bai'gen wataim?
When is he going to come back?

Aukam yu sabe blaikman tok?
How come you can speak the black people's language?

Bambai athe blo dhemtu i go stap ospetal au?
Is their grandfather going to stay in hospital?

Yu pinis luk piksa a?
Have you finished watching the film?


a) Verbs can be marked for voice (transitive-passive or intransitive-antipassive), but not person, tense, aspect or mood. Voice marking is for the transitive-passive, and made by suffixing -e to the verb stem when the object follows the verb, and -em when the object is elsewhere in the clause. Note that the suffix -em is of fairly recent development, and is in origin an abbreviation of the verb phrase form VERB-e em, where the cross referencing pronoun em and the suffix have coalesced (via -i em > -yem > -em). All these versions exist in everyday speech.

tek take : intransitive-antipassive : tek, transitive-passive : teke, tekem

Em yustu bi tek òl buk. He used to/would take took all books. (antipassive)

Em yustu bi teke buk. He used to take a/the book. (transitive)

Dha buk we em i yustu bi tekem i brok. The book he used to take is broken. (fronted transitive) (variants Dha buk we em i yustu bi teke em / teki em / tekyem i brok.

The development of a full passive using this form also exists:

Buk i yustu bi tekem lo em/prom em. A/The book used to be taken by him. (the lo - prom variant is dialect).

Verb stems that end in vowels do not take the suffix, a few verbs are irregular in not taking the suffix, while one or two others have stem extensions to form the verb from a noun:

a) vowel-final stem : lego leave, depart, go off/away, throw, throw at

Aka bi lego lo kenu. Grandma went off in the canoe.
Dhem nugud boi bin lego ston pò dhempla. The bad boys threw stones at them.

b) No suffix: luk

Ai bi luk pisin plai kam. I saw a bird flying towards me.

The suffixed form is sometimes used: Ai bi luki pisin plai kam.

c) stem 'extension'

ama hammer > verb amare

pain point > verb painte

Verbs of position and movement are not followed by a preposition in their most normal clause types. These are not to be confused with transitive clauses:

Awa bi stap aus bikòs em i sikwan. Uncle stayed (at) home because he's sick.

Òlgedha piknini i stap Bamaga lo Kolez. All the children stay at Bamaga at the College.

Dog i ran go dinggi. The/A dog runs to the dinghy.

Pusi i sidaun sea. The cat sits in/on the chair.

Phonological variation of the transitive suffix:

If the verb stem has e or a diphthong, then the transitive suffix is -e; if i or u, then it can become i, while of the stem contains a or o, the suffix can become a:

teke > teke take, bring

laite > laite light

pute > puti put

pile > pili feel something

broke > broka break

Sample Verb 'Declension':

lugaut 'take care, beware' (der. from 'look out')

remote future bambai X (i) go lugaut

near future X (i) go lugaut

non-specific present X (i) lugaut
specific present X (i) lugaut nau

recent past X (i) zasnau (bin) lugaut

past X (i) bin lugaut

completive past X (i) pinis/oredi lugaut

habitual past X (i) yustu bin lugaut

advice X (i) sud lugaut

obligation X (i) mas/aptu lugaut

dependent obligation X (i) blo/spostu lugaut

continuative X (i) matha go

multiplicative X (i) go-go

lengthening X (i) go go go goooo

simplicative X (i) dhasol go, X (i) matha dhasol go

ordinaritive X (i) dhasol go, X (i) kasa (dhasol) go

b) Verb suffixes

Four derivational suffixes exist which add aspectual meaning to verb stems. Though their origin are English prepositions and adverbs, in Brokan their satus is completely aspectual; they can only be used as suffixes. They are suffixes to the stem of intransitive verbs, and to the full transitive-passive form of transitive verbs. When used as transitive-passive verbs, they also suffix the transitive ending after the suffix. They are also derivational in forming verbs from other words.

-ap - completive, perfective:

piksimap(e) fix, repair, mend; rol roll > rolemap(e) roll up; bagarap(e) ruin, break, destroy

-aut - movement outwards:

kamaut come out; goaut go out; lugaut(e) be careful, beware, take care of, look after

-baut dispersive (this suffix causes the final voiceless consonant of the stem to become voiced):

wagbaut walk, walk about, walk around, stroll; togbaut(e) talk about/over, discuss

-daun downwards movement:

Only found on godaun movement downwards from a starting point; kamdaun movement downwards from above, sidaun sit down, yadaun down here, dhedaun down there.


Brokan shows strong substrata influence in its use of its prepositions. All local languages are declined agglutinative languages, which contrast the following cases to varying extents, but which have little or no number marking on nouns:

nominative, accusative, ergative, genitive, dative, ablative, locative, perlative, instrumental

They also contrast the following derived forms (among others according to language):

similative, privative, proprietive, resultative

The use of the prepositions in Brokan reflect these cases to a certain (= simplified) extent:

blo - genitive :
We aus blo misnari? Where is the priest’s house

, lo - dative (in part dialect variation) :
Em i bin spik pò em se wesis bl’em pinis kam. She told her her wages had already arrived.
Bos i bi gibi wesis pò/lo mi. The boss gave the wages to me.

prom – ablative :
’San i kam prom Dhaudhai. This one is coming over from Papua.

lo, we, ene - locative, perlative (lo and we are synonyms, and ene is an archaic word now normally found only in old songs) :
Aus blo Ama blo i stanap dhe antap lo / we il ananith lo / we big mango dhe antap. My Aunty’s house is up there on the hill underneath the big mango up there.
Yu mas kam wantaim lo mi. You must/have to come with me.
Dhemtu baradha i sidaun ene [lo/we] kenu The two brothers were sitting in the canoe.

lo - instrumental :
Òl man i kate tœtœl lo naip lo bele / lo ath The men cut (butcher) the turtle with a knife on the bottom shell.

òlsem, waze (waze is the somewhat more common reduced form of òlsem) – similative (like) :
Dhempla lo Mari Ailan i no tòk waze yumpla. The people on Murray Island don’t talk like us.
Em i dhe swim go waze aligeta. He’s swimming away over there like a crocodile.

Syntactic use of the Prepositions

The prepositions also have syntactic uses, including the following, where they govern verbs or adjectives:

Blo : obligation
Ai blo go nau I have to go now / I’m supposed to go now.

: a) focus on a goal
Bos i kam pò luk wòk blo yumi. The boss has come to see / look at our work.
b) extra intensity
Dhem pipol blo Saibai i pò dans! The Saibai people can really dance!
Ai pò taiad nau! I’m getting really tired!

Prom : avoidance
Smòl gel i prait prom dog i baite em. The little girl is afraid that the dog will bite her

lo, prom - comparative (dialect variation) :
Dhis dhangal ia i mò big prom/lo nadhawan dhea This dugong is bigger than that one.

We : relative clause
Aus we Ama i stap i antap lo il we i gad wan big mango. The house where Aunty lives is on the hill where there is a big mango.
Boi we yumi bin paitem i krai go lo Ama bl'em. The boy that/who we fought went off crying to his Mum.
Òl pipol we i wande gud wòk i mas lane ingglis Everyone who wants a good job has to learn English.

Waze (òlsem) : in order, so that
Bos i kam waze em i ken luk òl wòk blo yumi. The Boss is coming so that he can see our work.


The language has vocabulary from various sources, though the dominant source language is English.

Non-English words:

Kalaw Kawaw Ya: yawo goodbye, matha only/very, mina really/truly, babuk crosslegged, aka granny, (from the early Kauraraigau Ya [Kowrareg - the Southern dialect of Kala Lagaw Ya] word puri magic action/spells/products/medicines etc. (in modern Kala Lagaw Ya the word is puyi) puripuri.

Meriam Mìr: baker (bakìr] money (beside the more general baks), watai (wathai) bamboo break-wind fence.

Austronesian languages
The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia that are spoken by about 386 million people. It is on par with Indo-European, Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic and Uralic as one of the...

 (Malay, Filipino, Samoan, Rotuman, etc.) : thalinga ear, bala brother, male friend, thuba coconut toddy, makan eat, dudu sit, kaikai eat, nene granny, dhatho grandfather

Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

: pikinini child, sabe know, understand, know how to, can

Sample texts

A) Brokan i kriol langgus we òl i spikem lo dhem ailan blo Thoris Stret, lo nòthsaid gowe prom Kep Yòk, ausaid lo SauthWessaid blo Papua. I gad samwe waze 25,000 pipol i sabe tòkem waze namba-wan langgus, namba-tu langgus 'ne namba-thri langgus blo dhempla. Òl i yuzem lo plande ples waze langgus blo treiding an pò bai òl samthing. I gad paib kain Brokan: blo Papua, blo Westen-Sentrel, blo Tiai, blo Esten, blo Kep Yòk. Òl dhem wòd blo em soem dhiskain pò yumpla, waze em i pizin blo Pasipik, dhasòl i gad wanwan thing, òlsem we yumpla spik pò taim we i go kam, yumpla yuzi dhis tòk : X [i] go meke samthing, dhisan i gad rilesen lo Kriol blo Atlantic, blo Zameka.

Thri langgus we i òlsem Brokan i Pijin blo Solomon Ailan, Tok Pisin blo Niu Gini, ane Bislama blo Banuatu.

B) The Lord's Prayer:
  • Padha blo mipla, yu we yu stap dhe antap lo eben,
  • Nem blo yu mipla mas mekem oliwan,
  • Bambai basalaya blo yu i mas kam,
  • Òl i mas meke laik blo yu iya lo apaguwa, òlsem òl i mekem we eben.
  • Gibi dhamba blo tide pò mipla,
  • Pigibi òl nugud pasen blo mipla, òlsem mipla pigibi nugud pasen blo dhempla we òl i meke nugud pasen pò mipla.
  • No teke mipla go lo laik pò nugud thing,
  • Kasa dhasòl lego mipla prom nugudwan,
  • Bikos basalaya i blo yu, 'ne pawa,'ne glòri,
  • Amen.
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