Unserdeutsch (Rabaul Creole German)

Frequently asked questions

Prof Craig A. Volker during a Bayerischer Rundfunk radio interview in Augsburg, Germany

The many names that the Vunapope mixed-race community have used for their language have much in common with the ways that other communities speaking pidgin and creole languages around the world have called their languages. Besides Unser(e)deutsch (from unser ‘our’ + Deutsch ‘German’) and just Deutsch, there are a number of pejorative names, such as kaputene Deutsch (‘Kaput German’), falshe Deutsch (‘Wrong German’), gebrohene Deutsch (‘Broken German’), ferbrohene Deutsch (‘Messed-Up German’). Speakers today say that the name Unser(e)deutsch was not really used in the past. It first appeared in the interviews that Craig A. Volker conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, where it was used alongside names such as falsches Deutsch (‘Wrong German’) and geringeres Deutsch (‘Low Grade German’). Unserdeutsch was used to differentiate this type of creolized German from the Standard German used by the missionaries (see Recordings 1979-1980). Since the term Unserdeutsch has no negative connotations, it was the most suitable to be used in academic writing about the language. Since then the term Unserdeutsch has been established in academic writing and has been taken up in the many media responses to our research. In this way the name has become known and used by the entire community of speakers and their descendants, without, however, threatening the more common use of names such as kaputene Deutsch or falshe Deutsch. The name Rabaul Creole German is an artificial name used only in some linguistic works. It was coined in the first articles about the language by Craig A. Volker, following a three-part naming system for pidgins and creoles proposed by C. F. Hockett (1958): “geographic designation” + “Pidgin” / “Creole” + “dominant lexifier language”. This system has been used, for example, with Melanesian Pidgin English or Jamaica Creole English.

New Britain and New Ireland, the two largest islands in the Bismarck Archipelago and the islands most associated with the Unserdeutsch-speaking community, are relatively safe. The same cannot be said for Papua New Guinea as a whole. The infrastructure in the country is still poorly developed and government services, including the police, are non-existent in many areas. While it is true that Papua New Guinea is blessed with much natural beauty and cultural diversity, the cliche of a “Pacific Paradise” is a colonial myth that does not reflect the social reality of the country, either in the past or in the present. Travelling to Papua New Guinea must therefore be carefully planned in advance. It is important to note that the number of rapes and sexual assaults of women in the country as a whole is extremely high. Further information, warnings, and advice can be found on the websites listed below. Please refer to these sites and understand that we as a university research team cannot act as agents to make contact with institutions or private persons in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority
East New Britain Tourism Board
Tourism New Ireland
UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office warnings on travel safety in Papua New Guinea
German Foreign Ministry warnings on travel safety in Papua New Guinea (in German)

The recording, storing, and use of the data from the Unserdeutsch Project are conducted in accordance with a written agreement that was signed with each person who has been recorded. Under the terms of this agreement, the data collected in the project may be publicly available only on this website or in the Database for Spoken German at the Leibniz Institute for the German Language. We are therefore unable to send data to private persons or to other institutions. We have, however, made a wide selection of recordings, pictures, and articles available on this website that you are free to access or download at any time.

The Unserdeutsch Project has a special relationship with the Vunapope Mixed-Race Community. Please contact Professor Péter Maitz directly with your request.