The two official languages of the Pitcairn Islands are English and Pitkern (also known as Pitcairn-Norfolk). Pitkern is a creole language with originated from a mix of English and Tahitian during the 18th century. The language began as a so called "pidgin," or makeshift language which was used by two diverse communities of people who couldn’t otherwise communicate with one another. In the case of Pitkern these groups consisted of the native inhabitants of the Pacific islands and the English speaking sailors who were part of the mutiny of the HMS Bounty.

Both Pitken and English are taught in the Pitcairn Islands’ one and only school. Pitcairn-Norfolk is also spoken in Norfolk Island as well as in parts of New Zealand. Pitken shares many linguistic similarities with the Norfuk dialect. According to figures from 2008 some 400 people speak Pitcairn-Norfolk. In 2002 it was estimated that a mere thirty six people who actually lived on the Pitcairn Islands were able to speak this language.

Common phrases in the Pitkern language include questions such as “How are you?” which translates to “Whata way ye?” and “Wa sing yourley doing?” which is an inquiry as to someone’s activities. Basic words in this language include "weckle" which translates to “food”, “plum” meaning banana, and “cooshoo for “good”.

There are no recognized minority languages in the Pitcairn Islands. Because the majority of residents living on this tiny island are descendants of sailors responsible for the infamous mutiny on the Bounty most citizens have grown up speaking a mix of English and Pitkern. Other languages which are similar to the native dialect include Norfuk and Tahitian. Norfuk is primarily spoken on Norfolk Island due to the fact that in the middle of the 19th century it was repopulated by residents originally from the Pitcairn Islands.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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