Norfuk language

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Norfuk, Norf'k
Pronunciation [nɔːfuk]
Region Norfolk Island
Native speakers
400 (2008)[1]
English Creole
Official status
Official language in
 Norfolk Island (Australia)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Norfuk (increasingly spelt Norfolk) or Norf'k[2] is the language spoken on Norfolk Island (in the Pacific Ocean) by the local residents. It is a blend of 18th-century English and Tahitian, originally introduced by Pitkern-speaking settlers from the Pitcairn Islands. Along with English, it is the co-official language of Norfolk Island.[3][4]

As travel to and from Norfolk Island becomes more common, Norfuk is falling into disuse.[5] Efforts are being made to restore the language to more common usage, such as the education of children, the publication of English–Norfuk dictionaries, the use of the language in signage, and the renaming of some tourist attractions – most notably the rainforest walk "A Trip Ina Stik" – to their Norfuk equivalents. In 2007, the United Nations added Norfuk to its list of endangered languages.[6]

Relationship to Pitkern

Norfuk is descended predominantly from the Pitkern (Pitcairnese or Pi'kern) spoken by settlers from the Pitcairn Islands. The relative ease of travel from English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand to Norfolk Island, particularly when compared with that of travel to the Pitcairn Islands, has meant that Norfuk has been exposed to much greater contact with English relative to Pitkern. The difficulties in accessing the Pitcairn population have meant that a serious comparison of the two languages for mutual intelligibility has proven difficult.


Norfuk has been classified as an Atlantic Creole language,[7] despite the island's location in the Pacific Ocean.

The language is closely related to Pitkern, but has no other close relatives other than its parent tongues of English and Tahitian. It is generally considered that English has had more of an influence upon the language than Tahitian, with words of Tahitian extraction being confined largely to taboo subjects, negative characterisations, and adjectives indicating that something is undesirable.[8]

Many expressions which are not commonly used in the modern English that is spoken in most areas of the world carry on in Pitkern. These expressions include words from British maritime culture in the age of sailing ships. The influence of Seventh-day Adventist Church missionaries and the King James Version of the Bible are also notable.

In the mid-19th century, the people of Pitcairn resettled on Norfolk Island; later some moved back. Most speakers of Pitkern today are the descendants of those who stayed. Pitkern and Norfuk dialects are mutually intelligible.


One target sounds Two target sounds
group 1 group 2
i e ʌʊ
ɪ o ɑɪ
ɛ ɔɪ


The language is largely a spoken rather than written language,[10] and there is a lack of standardisation.[8] However, a number of attempts have been made at developing an orthography for the language. Early attempts either attempted to enforce English spelling onto the Norfuk words,[11] or used diacritical marks to represent sounds distinct to the language.

Alice Buffett, a Norfolk Island parliamentarian and Australian-trained linguist, developed a codified grammar and orthography for the language in the 1980s, assisted by Dr Donald Laycock, an Australian National University academic. Their book, Speak Norfuk Today, was published in 1988. This orthography has won the endorsement of the Norfolk Island government, and its use is becoming prevalent.[12]



The language itself does not have words to express some concepts, particularly those having to do with science and technology. Some Islanders believe that the only solution is to create a committee charged with creating new words in Norfuk rather than simply adopting English words for new technological advances. For example, Norfuk recently adopted the word kompyuuta, a Norfuk-ised version of computer. Processes similar to this exist in relation to other languages around the world, such as the Māori language in New Zealand and the Faroese and Icelandic languages. Some languages already have official bodies, such as New Zealand's Māori Language Commission or France's Académie française, for creating new words.[13]

Personal pronouns

English Norfuk
I ai
you (singular) yu
he hi
she shi
we wi
you (plural) yorlye
they dem


English Norfuk
different defrent
tree trii
other taeda
main mien
page paij
donation doenaiishun
Europe Urup
city citii
island ailen
hello wataweih[14]

See also


  1. ^ Norfuk language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Norfolk Island Language (Norf’k) Act 2004 (Act No. 25 of 2004) Archived 9 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ The Dominion Post, 21 April 2005 (page B3)
  4. ^ The Daily Telegraph, Save our dialect, say Bounty islanders, retrieved 6 April 2007
  5. ^ Feizkhah, Elizabeth, Keeping Norfolk Alive, TIME Pacific, 6 August 2001 Archived 13 October 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "UN adds Norfolk language to endangered list". ABC News. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  7. ^ Avram, Andrei (2003). "Pitkern and Norfolk revisited". English Today. 19 (1): 44–49. doi:10.1017/S0266078403003092. Retrieved 9 April 2007.
  8. ^ a b Ingram, John. Norfolk Island-Pitcairn English (Pitkern Norfolk), University of Queensland, 2006
  9. ^ Harrison, Shirley (1972). The language of Norfolk Island. p. 18.
  10. ^ Buffett, Alice, An Encyclopædia of the Norfolk Island Language, 1999
  11. ^ Buffett, Alice, An Encyclopædia of the Norfolk Island Language, 1999, p. xvi
  12. ^ Buffett, David E., An Encyclopædia of the Norfolk Island Language, 1999, p. xii
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Home". Retrieved 2017-04-08.

External links

  • Norfolk Government
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