Pitkern, also known as Pitcairn-Norfolk or Pitcairnese, is a linguistic cant based on an 18th-century mix of English and Tahitian. It is a primary language of the Pitcairn Islands, though it has more speakers on Norfolk Island. Although spoken on Pacific Ocean islands, it has been described as an Atlantic Creole, due to the lack of connections with the English creoles of the Pacific. There are about 50 speakers on Pitcairn Island, Britain's last remaining territory in the South Pacific.
Following the Mutiny on the Bounty on 28 April 1789, the British mutineers stopped at Tahiti and took 18 Polynesians, mostly women, to remote Pitcairn Island and settled there.
Pitkern was influenced by the diverse English dialects and accents of the crew. Geographically, the mutineers were drawn from as far as the West Indies, with one mutineer being described as speaking a forerunner of a Caribbean patois. One was a Scot from the Isle of Lewis. At least one, the leader Fletcher Christian, was a well-educated man, which at the time made a major difference in speech. Both Geordie and West Country dialects have obvious links to some Pitkern phrases and words, such as whettles, meaning food, from victuals.
Norf'k is descended predominantly from the Pitkern spoken by settlers on Norfolk Island originally from the Pitcairn Islands. The relative ease of travel from English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand or Papua New Guinea to Norfolk Island, particularly when compared with that of travel to the Pitcairn Islands, has meant that Norf'k 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.
The sentences below are excerpted from a longer dialogue held in 1951 between a teenage speaker of Pitkern and A.W. Moverley, a foreigner who worked as a schoolteacher on Pitcairn during the mid-20th century. The dialogue was recorded by Moverley and later transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet by A.C. Gimson, with translations to English provided by Moverley.