It’s a truth that should be self evident: as an official language of New Zealand, te reo Ma¯ori deserves to be held in the same esteem as English. A basic first step toward that deserved level of mana is using the language correctly.
That’s why we are introducing macrons (tohuto¯) for Ma¯ori words in the Kapiti Observer and on Stuff. We’re pleased to be able to do this in Te Wiki o te reo Ma¯ori, Ma¯ori Language Week.
Macrons are the horizontal lines above some vowels. They indicate a longer vowel sound. For instance, the macron in Ma¯ori gives it an ‘a’ sound like in ‘car’. As well as showing respect to our Ma¯ori audience by ensuring our usage is technically correct, adopting macrons will aid pronunciation and prevent mistaken meanings.
Including or missing a macron can make a big difference to a word’s meaning. To borrow one example from the Ma¯ori Language Commission: ‘‘He keke ma¯u?’’ translates to the delicious ‘‘Would you like some cake?’’ But the very similar ‘‘He ke¯ke¯ ma¯u?’’ translates to the much less appetising ‘‘Would you like some armpit?’’
This introduction is arguably overdue – after all, the Ma¯ori Language Commission has now been advocating the use of macrons for 30 years.