I've read that being a simple, yet more expressive, substitute for a pidgin language is one of the possible applications of Toki Pona.

In situations where people from multiple languages come together they need to be able to communicate with each other. Pidgins are introduced or developed in these situations, but there is a limited scope to what can be said in pidgins. Over time, pidgins creolise into full natural languages. I would like to know if a language like Toki Pona (or a similarly minimal conlang) has ever successfully replaced the use of a pidgin to allow more to be said, rather than letting the pidgin creolise naturally.

  • @curiousdannii They don't count from what I understand as they are not conlangs and they are (or were at their beginning) less expressive than Toki Pona would be. I'm asking if conlangs are used to replace pidgins in order to give a certain group better means to communicate. Feb 7, 2018 at 0:51
  • @curiousdannii Haven't I already said that in the question? I'm asking about languages replacing a pidgin due to its bad expressiveness. It doesn't make sense to replace a pidgin with another pidgin so my question considers pidgins off-topic in a way. On the other hand, you are clearly trying to explain something to me. May I ask you to clarify your doubts about the scope of this question again? :) Thank you! Feb 7, 2018 at 1:02
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    It's just that the question asks if any minimal languages have ever solved real world problems. And the answer is that every pidgin has done so, the problem of not being able to communicate. You really should ask whether any minimal conlang was used to surpass the inadequacies of pidgins by replacing the community's use of pidgin, rather than the natural creolisation of the pidgin.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 7, 2018 at 1:05
  • @curiousdannii You are right. Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me. I'll update the question in a minute! Feb 7, 2018 at 1:09
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    @curiousdannii It sounds much better now. Thanks! Feb 7, 2018 at 1:12

2 Answers 2


Basic English is minimal in that it limits the number of words in the language (though not as extremely as Toki Pona). It was intended to be an international auxiliary language (although it never really caught on).

The language was used in 1945 in order to quickly teach Chinese sailors to understand naval orders. This was reported at the time in a Time magazine article (paywall beyond first two paragraphs; the reference to the article comes from Wikipedia).

  • This answer was written to a previous version of the question
    – b a
    Feb 7, 2018 at 8:12
  • It is still fine though. Feb 9, 2018 at 13:36

Yep. How reconstructed/engineered modern Hebrew replaced Yiddish and Judesmo. Both can be considered as pidgins, from German and from Spanish, with lithurgic Hebrew vocab. And modern Hebrew is definitely a conlang.

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    Yiddish is certainly not a Pidgin. It is a High German language (making it closely related to Standard German and southern German dialects) which has been influenced by various other languages, but shows none of the characteristics of a pidgin (such as low expressiveness, non-rigid grammar or a low vocabulary count). It is a language like any other and calling it a pidgin is not only inaccurate but insulting. (I am not familiar with Judesmo but I assume the situation will be similar, a glance at Wikipedia confirms this). And that “definitely” is a strong statement too, tho I won’t dispute it. Dec 9, 2018 at 11:58
  • @Adarain what exactly makes it insulting? pidgin is just a way some languages are coming into existence. Even if Yiddish is not a pidgin (with what I tend to agree with) - claiming that it is is not insulting at all. I might be wrong, it might be right, but it's not insulting. It's not like pidgin is an indicator of stupidity or whatever.
    – shabunc
    Oct 31, 2019 at 10:01
  • @shabunc Pidgins, pretty much by definition, are not full languages. They’re more ad-hoc, have less vocabular and less established rules than languages. Saying Yiddish is a pidgin essentially means you believe it satisfies this criteria, which is a value judgement comparable to e.g. claiming “chinese doesn’t have grammar”. Oct 31, 2019 at 10:19
  • @Adarain when pidgin has started to be used and did not died out it's pretty quickly evolves. Claiming that something has creole/pidgin origin is claiming that something has creole/pidgin origin, no less, no more. There's a Middle English Creole hypothesis - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_English_creole_hypothesis - again, it might be wrong, it might be right, it doesn't offend and shouldn't offend English speakers.
    – shabunc
    Oct 31, 2019 at 10:24
  • @shabunc Stating that something originated as a pidgin is very different from stating it is one. The former is, indeed, a perfectly reasonable claim to make. The latter is not, in this case. Oct 31, 2019 at 20:15

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