Pronouns in Bislama

Last year I went to Vanuatu for a couple of weeks and I picked up a some books on the language Bislama that is one of the main languages there. Bislama is a creole - a mix of European languages and the native languages of the islands. These are some notes I took of how pronouns work in Bislama compared to te reo Māori.

Bislama follows a system based on the Vanuatu native languages, similar to Māori, where the pronouns are gender neutral and they have different words depending on if the person or people being spoken to are included or excluded from the group identified by the pronoun.

Like Māori, Bislama also has different words for number of people in a plural group. Bislama differentiates singular, dual, trial, and more than three people. Bislama doesn't differentiate between subject (he/she/I) and object (him/her/me) forms of pronouns.

The following has the Bislama, followed by the Māori equivalent and then the English.


Bislama Māori English
mi au/ahau I/me
yu koe you
em/hem ia he/him, she/her, it

You, excluding speaker, including addressee:

Bislama Māori English
yutufala kōrua you, two people
yutrifala koutou you, three people
yufala koutou you, plural

Them, excluding addressee and speaker:

Bislama Māori English
tufala rāua them, two people
trifala rātou three people
olgeta rātou them, plural

We, including speaker and addressee:

Bislama Māori English
yumitu tāua We, two people
yumitrifala tātou We, three people
yumi tātou We, plural

We, including speaker, excluding addressee:

Bislama Māori English
mitufala māua We, two people
mitrifala mātou We, three people
mifala mātou We, plural

When using the pronouns in a sentence they can be followed by a predicate marker which separates the pronoun from the verb (Bislama is Subject, Verb, Object ordered). This marker is usually i. For the olgeta pronoun, it is oli. For mi, yu and yumi there is no predicate marker.  For example:

Bislama Māori English
mi sutum pijin ia i puhi au i tēnei manu I shot this bird
hem i sutum pijin ia i puhi ia i tēnei manu He/she shot this bird
olgeta oli sutum pijin ia i puhi rātou i tēnei manu They shot this bird

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