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Pidgins do not develop among "local laborers between [sic] themselves", but in interactions among people of two or more native languages. My understanding is that Bislama grew out of a lingua franca developed between English-speaking merchants and (Polynesian?) workers; i don't recall whether the workers were native or imported.

I'm not clear whether such a l.f. is a kind of pidgin, or just resembles a pidgin in becoming a normal language (a creole, as stated, at least in the case of a pidgin) only when a generation grows up speaking it.

Needs research or an expert.
Belated sig for my 03:33, 14 August 2004 edit: Jerzyt 03:16, 1 October 2005 (UTC)

Bislama developed as a means of communication between the "Blackbirders" who took Melanesian men to Queensland to work the sugar cane fields in the 19th century and the men they transported. Each island in the archipelago has at least one distinct language, so Bislama became the language used between the islanders themselves as well. It contains words from the seamen who manned the ships (e.g. Pikanini" meaning small child), english, with a distinct australian bent(e.g. "bagarap" meaning something broken), french (e.g. "lafet" meaning a party comes from "la fete"). Today Bislama is increasingly anglicised, and despite a distinct grammar, changing as the effects of mass media become increasingly available in all areas of the country.

Unsigned contrib from 17:45, 20 February 2005 by

On 23-Mar-2005 an anonymous user added, correctly, that "Bislama" has nothing to do with "Islam". This is true, but I believe it lacks relevance. I propose to remove this red herring unless someone can provide a compleeling reason to keep it. Ringbark 17:09, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

With reference to the 2nd paragraph[edit]

I will attempt to support this with references. The notion that the language developed via the Qld "Blackbirders" is but one aspect of the overall picture. The other is the strong influence of Christian (both Protestant and Catholic) missionaries throughout the South pacific who had strong vested interests in developing a universal language so that they could peddle their religious sectarian interests. Their influence on the pacific islanders and their language is and continues to be far greater than a few thousand islanders tricked into work-slave gangs in Queensland. Mombas 11:46, 18 February 2007 (UTC)

Hello Mombas. I see what you mean, but the problem is just that these are not historical facts. Catholic missionaries in New Hebrides always used French in church (never Bislama!); Presbyterian missionaries always used English (never Bislama); Anglican missionaries used Mota, one of the vernaculars (never Bislama). So Bislama was never used as a Biblical language during colonization; this started only in the 1970s, at a time when Bislama had already spread all over the archipelago. That expansion had not taken place due to Missionaries, but to the history of Blackbirding around 1880. See the references I've just added to the article. Cheers, Womtelo 12:24, 18 February 2007 (UTC)

Alsem wannem masta? ;-) Hi Womtelo and thanks kindly for your edits. The history section is looking much better. May I ask whether your sources are purely based upon studies or papers undertaken by various intellectuals who have spent short periods of time in Vanuatu evaluating the language, or have you lived there yourself for any considerable period? I would hardly conclude that the language developed purely as a result of the “Blackbirders”. Consider that large numbers of kanakas were also taken from New Caledonia, yet there is not one iota of evidence historic or otherwise which supports that kanakas speak any version of Bislama or anything closely resembling the language? While I understand the link with the blackbirders, I do believe that the source of Bislama is perhaps more complicated than meets the eye. Is the notion that Bislama originated with Blackbirders a consensus among scholars, or just the conclusion of the author you have quoted from in Wikipedia, or is the jury still out?

In my view missionaries should not be discounted from having played an pivotal role in the development of the language. More than any other influence, missionaries connected with New Hebrideans since day dot! Contrary to your assertion, I have attended various Anglican church meetings, (in the sixties), not only in Vila but in the outer Islands too, where the service has been completely in Bislama. Why would any religion preach to a people in a language (English) they don’t understand. In the 30 years I lived in the New Hebrides very few natives spokes English, and even fewer in the outer islands. My understanding is that missionaries educated various chosen native flock in English and they then administered the religion in broken English-Bislama to the rest of the population. As a result Christianity is the single most influential belief system throughout the whole of the South Pacific. (not that this is a good thing) Incidentally is not "Beach-la-Mar" Spanish? Cheers mate Mombas 08:46, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

Hi Mombas. Bislama is no broken English. It has its own phonology & grammar, which can be traced back to the 1880s thanks to actual documentary evidence. Also, historians of Bislama (esp. Charpentier & Crowley) are not just armchair "intellectuals"!! they know Vanuatu perfectly, speak Bislama fluently, and know any detail of it; that's how science is made. One can spend just 2 years in Vanuatu (these two folks actually did much more than 2), and know it better than some folks who spent 30 years in Vila or Santo but never actually spent much time speaking with the natives or dedicating themselves to any thorough and methodical research.
As for your church topic: once again, missionaries are not the main force that spread Bislama; rather, until about 1950, the various churches used other languages (French, English, Mota or other vernaculars); then in the fifties, because Bislama HAD ALREADY become the lingua franca among grassroots people of the Hebrides (this expansion being initially due to the Blackbirding episode), some churches (esp. the Anglican, but much less so the Catholics and Presbyterian) eventually adapted to the sociolinguistic situation that was already there. I think the official adoption of Bislama by the Anglican church in Vanuatu dates back no earlier than 1981, which is very late! So claiming that Bislama was spread mainly by the Missionaries would take things upside down. Cheers, Womtelo 12:57, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

I do not have documentation for the following statements, but I have done quite a bit of reading on the topic. What I have gathered from reading from several knowledgeable sources is that Bislama, Pijin, and Tok Pisin all originated together. Slaves taken from Melanesian islands to Australia developed this pidgin as a means of communicating with their task masters. When slavery was outlawed in Australia, all of the slaves were sent back to their homes. In PNG, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu (then the New Hebrides Islands), there were a vast number of native languages spoken, so this pidgin form of communication was used to communicate with other tribes and traders. As the "language" was used, it took on characteristics of the native languages of its speakers, which accounts for the difference between Bislama, Pijin, and Tok Pisin. In Vanuatu, Bislama was also heavily influenced by the French as they began to rule jointly with Britain. Also, the word Bislama comes from the French "Beche de Mer" meaning "sea cucumber." This name supposedly originated from traders (trading to get sea cucumbers) referring to using "Bechedemer" speech to communicate with the natives.Toeverycreature (talk) 19:33, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

Vanuatu Scouting[edit]

Can someone render "Be Prepared", the Scout Motto, into Bislama? Thanks! Chris 07:00, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

Bislama language template[edit]

If you are a native speaker of Bislama then you can add this template onto your userpage:

bi Man ia i luksave toktok ia Bislama long fasin blong manples.

--Amazonien (talk) 04:27, 20 January 2009 (UTC)


This article mentions "hundreds of thousands of Pacific islanders" were blackbirded. This has no citation and is at odds with statements in other articles related to this. Is there a consensus as to how many people were involved? Can we gain some consistency between articles? Ozdaren (talk) 13:21, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Added ref (from Blackbirding article.) "Hundreds of thousands" is for all Pacific, not just Vanuatu. Maybe the confusion is between total numbers for the South Pacific vs Vanuatu only, or numbers taken TO (a) place(s) vs numbers taken FROM (an)other place(s). -- Bricaniwi (talk) 20:44, 10 February 2010 (UTC)