Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, so it comes as no surprise that it is home to a wealth of languages. With over 820 indigenous languages, Papua New Guinea is home to more spoken languages than any other country in the world.
The country has an average of 7,000 speakers per language. However, some of these languages have few speakers with some having fewer than 1,000 speakers. The most widely spoken language is Enga as it has more than 200,000 speakers. The other popular languages in New Guinea include Melpa and Huli.
The Official Languages of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has four official languages: Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, Sign Language, and English. English is common in the government and in the education system but it is not widely spoken. Recently, sign language became the fourth official language of Papua New Guinea.
The primary language spoken in Papua New Guinea is Tok Pisin. This is the New Guinean pidgin or the Melanesian pidgin. Most parliamentary debates, advertisements, and informational campaigns are conducted in Tok pisin. Recently, Wantok, a national newspaper was published in the language. Although not all natives speak it well, between five to six people use Tok Pisin language. Today, a good number of people learn and speak Tok Pisin as their first language especially children.
In the southern region of Papua, Tok Pisin is not common and instead, people speak Hiri Motu. Hiri Motu language also goes by the name Police Motu. It is an official language in Papua New Guinea. It is a simplified version of the Austronesian family language Motu. Hiri Motu developed from the Motu people and their southeast coast neighbors of New Guinea. They were members of the Hiri trade cycle that mainly dealt in clay pots and sago.
Hiri Motu possesses some features of Pidgin or Creole, although it is neither Creole nor Pidgin. Hiri Motu speakers cannot understand Motu language due to grammatical and phonological differences. Motu speakers also have problems in understanding the Hiri Motu speakers. Hiri Motu was popular during colonial period as the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary adopted it.
Suki is not among the official languages of Papua New Guinea. Suki has around 3,500 speakers across the country. It is particularly common in the southwestern side of the country along the Fly River. Suki is also popular in the Western Province villages such as Gwibaku, Duru, Isala, Ewe, and Iwewi.
Unserdeutsch also goes by the name Rabaul Creole German. It is a German based Creole language spoken in Papua New Guinea. The creole language developed from the colonial German and some local people adopted it.
Other languages in Papua New Guinea
Other languages in Papua New Guinea include Austronesian languages and Papuan languages. The people speaking the Austronesian languages arrived in New Guinea 3,500 years back. The Austronesian languages are widely spread across the globe in areas such as Madagascar and Rapa Nui.