|Maori (Te Reo Māori)|
|Spoken in:||New Zealand|
|Total speakers:||100,000–160,000 (est)|
|Ranking:||Not in top 100|
|Official language of:||New Zealand|
|Regulated by:||Maori Language Commission|
|ISO 639–2||mao (B) / mri (T)|
|See also: Language – List of languages|
Table of contents
In the last 200 years the Maori language has had a very tumultuous history, going from the position of predominant language of New Zealand until into the 1860s, when it became a minority language in the shadow of the English brought by white settlers, missionaries, gold-seekers and traders. In the late 19th century, the English school system was introduced for all New Zealanders, and from the 1880s the use of Maori in school was forbidden (see Native Schools). Increasing numbers of Maori people learned English because it was required at school and because of the prestige and opportunity associated with the language. Until World War II, however, most Maori still spoke Maori as a native language. Worship was in Maori, it was the language of the home, political meetings were conducted in Maori, and some newspapers and some literature was published in Maori. As late as the 1930s, some Maori parliamentarians were disadvantaged because the Parliament's proceedings were by then carried on in English. In this period, the number of speakers of Maori began to decline rapidly until by the 1980s less than 20% of Maori spoke the language well enough to be considered native speakers. Even for many of those people, Maori was no longer the language of the home.
By the 1980s, Maori leaders began to recognize the dangers of the loss of their language and began to initiate Maori-language recovery programs such as the Kōhanga Reo movement, which immersed infants in Maori from infancy to school age. This was followed by the founding of the Kura Kaupapa, a primary school program in Maori.
The Maori language belongs to the Austronesian family of languages. A member of the Tahitic branch of the Polynesian languages, it is most closely related to Tahitian, spoken in Tahiti and the Society Islands, and to Rarotongan, spoken in the southern Cook Islands.
Maori is spoken almost exclusively in New Zealand, by upwards of 100,000 people, nearly all of them of Maori descent. Estimates of the number of speakers vary: the 1996 census reported 160,000, while other estimates have reported as low as 50,000. The only other country with a significant portion of Maori speakers are the Cook Islands, which used to be part of New Zealand, but have been independent since 1965, albeit still closely associated with New Zealand.
Maori is one of two official languages of New Zealand, the other being English. Most government departments and agencies now have bilingual names, for example, the Department of Internal Affairs is known as Te Tari Taiwhenua, and bodies such as local government offices and public libraries also have bilingual signs. New Zealand Post recognises Maori place names in postal addresses.
Māori Language Week
The 1894 (Fourth) edition of Grammar of the New Zealand Language (by the Archdeacon of Auckland, R. Maunsell, LL.D., described seven distinct dialects for the North Island alone — Rarawa, Ngapuhi, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Port Nicholson–Wanganui, and Wanganui–Mokau — but mentioned some variations within some of those)
By 2004, many of the minor dialects have probably declined almost to extinction, and most new students and speakers can be expected to use the official and/or Maori Television standards. However, regional variants are still apparent, on different websites and even between speakers and subtitle-writers on Maori Television.
A Maori phrasebook which is a useful general guide for visitors is here at Wikitravel.
Kāi Tahu (Southern) Maori
One dialect that has returned to prominence in recent years is the Kāi Tahu dialect, often referred to as Southern Maori. The most obvious feature is the substitution of k for ng, as evidenced in the tribal name (Ngāi Tahu is the name used in certain acts of Parliament, leading to the common usage of both versions of the name).
Other variations from more northern dialects include the presence of extra consonants g (as distinct from ng or k, e.g., Katigi, Otago), and l which substitutes for r (e.g., Little Akaloa, Kilmog, Waihola, Rakiula (a variation of Rakiura or Stewart Island). The "wh" of northern Maori is also often replaced by a simple "w" or even "u", as in (e.g., Wangaloa).
Southern Maori also has apocope as a frequent feature, with the final letters of words often being pronounced as schwas or remaining unvoiced. For these reason, early European settlers to New Zealand referred, for example, to Lake Wakatipu as "Wagadib", and many locals still refer to Otago as Otaguh.
Until the last decade or so, Southern Maori was discouraged in favour of standard (Waikato) Maori, but has gained in acceptance in recent years, leading to changes in the official names and translations of several southern places and institutions. Mount Cook, for example, was also known as Aorangi for many years, but now is graced by the alternative name of Aoraki. Similarly, Dunedin's main research library (the Hocken Library) is now given the alternative name of Te Uare Taoka o Hākena, rather than Te Whare Taonga o Hākena.
Southern Maori still leads to some confusion among general Maori speakers, who will frequently persist in using standard Maori pronunciation rather than Southern Maori for southern place names, notably the town of Oamaru (pronounced with four syllables in standard Maori, but only three in Southern Maori).
Cook Island Maori
- See main article Rarotongan language
Of all of the existing Polynesian languages, Maori is the only member of the group where compound nouns are formed extensively. Long compound nouns are possible in Maori, but unlike German, compound nouns are not heavily used.
There is no native writing system for Maori. Missionaries made their first attempts to write the language using the Roman alphabet as early as 1814, and Professor Samuel Lee of Cambridge University worked with chief Hongi Hika and his junior relative Waikato to systematize the written language in 1820. Literacy was an exciting new concept that the Maori embraced enthusiastically, and missionaries reported in the 1820s that Maori all over the country taught each other to read and write, using sometimes quite innovative materials, such as leaves and charcoal, carved wood, and the cured skins of animals, when no paper was available.
There has been speculation that the petroglyphs once used by the Maori developed into a script similar to the Rongorongo of Easter Island, but there is no evidence that these petroglyphs ever evolved into a true system of writing.
Reo Maori and its role in the mental health system
Reo Maori allows oranga hinengaro (mental health) workers to provide Maori clients with personalised therapy. Being able to communicate and explain whakaoranga (therapy) procedures and outcomes allow both kaimatai hinengaro as well as Maori clients to understand and clarify any areas of concern. Maori clients are able to communicate their expected outcomes of whakaoranga using Reo Maori and kaimatai hinengaro are able to utilise Reo Maori concepts of health, such as Whare Tapa Wha model in their whakaoranga sessions. Being able to speak the same language not only acknowledges the ahautanga whakatipu (upbringing) of Maori clients, it also allows Maori clients to relate better to their kaimatai hinengaro.
- NZ Reo, NZ Pride
- Ethnologue report for Maori
- Maori Language Commission (for definitive standards).
- English and Maori Word Translator from the Knowledge Engineering Laboratory of the University of Otago.
- Online edition of the Ngata Māori–English English–Māori Dictionary from Learning Media; gives several options and shows use in phrases.
- Webster's Maori–English Dictionary — (Take care. Uses the double letter long vowel conventions instead of macrons).
- Free Māori spellchecker
- Collection of historic Māori newspapers