This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Nuts and Bolts: Police Motu

Police Motu (or Pidgin Motu, or Hiri Motu) is one of the official languages of Papua New Guinea.

Why Police? Because the language spread partly because of its adoption by the Royal Papuan Constabulary, though before that it was carried along by the Hiri, the trade that swapped clay pots for sago along the Papuan coast.

Sadly, the speakers of Police Motu are now nearly all old: the young people of Papua speak Tok Pidgin, or English, or Motu itself. 

This is a great pity because Police Motu is a wonderful language

Ba mahuta! in Police Motu means goodbye. Well, actually it means Sleep well, but it's used in the daytime as well as at night. 

How relaxed is that?

My very favourite thing about Police Motu, though, is the way it's got the who's-doing-what problem sorted out so elegantly. In English you can tell who's doing what by the word order (The boy kills the pig, for example). Latin has a horribly complicated system where you do it by looking at the ending of each word (a pig that's doing something is porcus; a pig which is being killed is porcum*). But in Police Motu you just put an extra word, ese, after the thing who's doing the action: Unai mero ese boroma ta ia alaia. Which means the boy kills the pig.

Simple, but fool-proof. 

I do wish the Romans had thought of it when they were making up Latin. 

Word To Use Today: one you've learned from the police. Forensic, perhaps.

*I think.

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