Languages of Papua New Guinea

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Languages of Papua New Guinea & Indonesia
TNG map.svg
Official languagesTok Pisin, English, Hiri Motu, Papua New Guinean Sign Language
Lingua francaTok Pisin

The languages of Papua New Guinea today number over 850. These languages are spoken by the inhabited tribal groups of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. In 2006, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare stated that "Papua New Guinea has 832 living languages (languages, not dialects)" [1] making it the most linguistically diverse place on earth.[2][3] Its official languages are Tok Pisin, English, Hiri Motu and Papua New Guinean Sign Language. Tok Pisin, an English-based creole, is the most widely spoken, serving as the country's lingua franca. Papua New Guinean Sign Language became the fourth official language in May 2015, and is used by the deaf population throughout the country.


Although English is an official language of Papua New Guinea, it is only spoken by 1–2% of the population.[4]

Tok Pisin[edit]

Tok Pisin is an English-based creole language spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. It is an official language of Papua New Guinea and the most widely used language in the country. In parts of Western, Gulf, Central, Oro and Milne Bay provinces, however, the use of Tok Pisin has a shorter history, and is less universal, especially among older people.

Hiri Motu[edit]

Hiri Motu, also known as Police Motu, Pidgin Motu, or just Hiri, is a simplified version of the Motu language, of the Austronesian language family.


Unserdeutsch, or Rabaul Creole German, is a German-based creole language spoken mainly in East New Britain Province. It is the only creole language that has developed from colonial German. The lexicon is derived from German, while the substrate language is Tok Pisin. [5]

Papuan languages[edit]

Outside Papua New Guinea, Papuan languages are also spoken in Indonesia, East Timor, and the Solomon Islands.

Austronesian languages[edit]

People speaking languages belonging to the Austronesian family arrived in New Guinea approximately 3,500 years ago.[citation needed]

The Austronesian languages are widely spread across the globe, as far west as Malagasy in Madagascar, as far east as Rapa Nui on Easter Island, and as far as north as the Formosan languages of Taiwan. Austronesian has several primary branches, all but one of which are found exclusively on Taiwan.[citation needed]


64.2% of the population of Papua New Guinea over 15 years of age are literate.[4]


  1. ^ (Statement at the World Leaders Forum Archived 2008-03-18 at the Wayback Machine., Columbia University, September 21, 2006; website of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea).
  2. ^ "Seven decades after Independence, many small languages in India face extinction threat".
  3. ^ A.V. (24 July 2017). "Papua New Guinea's incredible linguistic diversity". The Economist. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b CIA World Factbook: Papua New Guinea
  5. ^ Maitz, Volker, Peter, Craig Volker (2017). "Documenting Unserdeutsch Reversing Colonial Amneasia" (PDF). Journal of Pigin and Creole Languages: 365–397.


  • Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (Fifteenth ed.). Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.