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Rabaul Creole German
Native toPapua New Guinea
Native speakers
100+ (2014-2017)[1][2]
German-based creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3uln

Unserdeutsch ("Our German"), or Rabaul Creole German, is a German-based creole language that originated in Papua New Guinea.[4] It was formed among the New Guinean children residing in a German-run orphanage in what was then German New Guinea. Oral stories tell a version that Unserdeutsch originated by children sharing stories where they used German vocabulary with Tok Pisin grammar, this change in language is referred to as relexification.[5][6][2] Majority of speakers and their families migrated to Australia after Papua New Guinea's independence in 1975. During fieldwork conducted by researchers between 2014 and 2017, there were about 100 speakers found in Australia and around 10 speakers found in Papua New Guinea.[2][1]

Most speakers of Unserdeutsch are bilingual; speaking either Standard German, English, Tok Pisin or Kuanua. Most surviving speakers are middle-aged or older, although younger members of the community may comprehend the language. The descendant of a pidginised form of Standard German which originated in the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain during German colonial times among the Catholic mixed-race (Vunapope) community. With increased mobility and intermarriage, it has been disappearing in the last few decades.

Unserdeutsch presumably influenced the development of its neighbour, Tok Pisin. Unlike Namibian Black German in Namibia, it is a creole; indeed, it is the only creole that developed from colonial German.[7]


  1. ^ a b Unserdeutsch, Special Broadcasting Service, 16 March 2016
  2. ^ a b c Maitz, Peter; Volker, Craig Alan (2017). "Documenting Unserdeutsch: Reversing colonial amnesia" (PDF). Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages. 32 (2): 376. doi:10.1075/jpcl.32.2.06mai.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Unserdeutsch". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ "Rabaul Creole German (Unserdeutsch)". University of Augsburg. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  5. ^ Volker, Craig. "The birth and decline of rabaul creole german". Journal of the Linguistic Society of Papua New Guinea. 22 (1-2): 143 – via UBC Okanagan.
  6. ^ Volker 1991
  7. ^ John Holm, 1989, Pidgins and Creoles, vol. 2: Reference Survey

Further reading[edit]

  • Peter Mühlhäusler: Tracing the roots of pidgin German. In: Language and Communication, 4/(1)/1984, S. 27–57. ISSN 0271-5309
  • Craig A. Volker: Rabaul Creole German Syntax. In: Working Papers in Linguistics, University of Hawaii 21/1989, S. 153–189 (online)
  • Craig A. Volker: An Introduction to Rabaul Creole German (Unserdeutsch). unpublished Master thesis (1982), University of Queensland. (online)
  • Craig A. Volker: The rise and decline of Rabaul Creole German, Language and Linguistics in Melanesia. In: John Lynch (ed.): Oceanic studies : proceedings of the first international conference on oceanic linguistics Australian Nat. Univ., Canberra 1996, ISBN 0-85883-440-5 (older edition available here)

External links[edit]