What is that lit­tle line?

South Waikato News - - Your Local News - NGAHIWI APANUI

Kia ora ta¯ tou e whakanui ana i te¯ nei wiki o to¯ ta¯ tou reo.

The de­ci­sion by Stuff [and South Waikato Times] to use the to­huto¯ or macron will de­light all those who trea­sure New Zealand’s first lan­guage. As we say in Ma¯ ori: ‘‘ahakoa he iti, he pounamu’’ – ‘‘al­though it seems small, it’s of great value’’.

To­huto¯ mark long vow­els, and help tell which bit of a word to stress. With to­huto¯ any­one can look at a word, even one they have never seen be­fore, and pro­nounce it. There’s a big dif­fer­ence in sound be­tween a long and short vowel. ‘a’ is the sound in the English word ‘fun’. ‘a¯ ’ is the sound in ‘far’ (if you’re not from South­land).

Com­mon Ma¯ ori words that use the to­huto¯ in­clude ha¯ ngi, hapu¯ , hı¯koi, ka¯ inga, ka¯ tipo¯ , ka¯ ka¯ po¯ , kauma¯ tua, ka¯ wanatanga, kereru¯ , ko¯ whai, ku¯ mara, ko¯ hanga reo, pa¯ , Pa¯ keha¯ , tu¯ ı¯, wa¯ nanga, wha¯ nau and we¯ta¯. Many think of to­huto¯ as a nov­elty but the need to mark long vow­els was al­ways seen as im­por­tant by some. The first pub­li­ca­tion to use the to­huto¯ was Lady (Mary Ann) Martin’s Ma¯ ori lan­guage book Recipes for reme­dies, food and bev­er­ages in 1869. How­ever, its use was not for­malised un­til the es­tab­lish­ment of the Ma¯ ori Lan­guage Com­mis­sion in 1987 and the de­ci­sion, led by the first Com­mis­sioner, Pro­fes­sor (now Sir) Tı¯moti Ka¯ retu that to­huto¯ should be used. This ended (largely) the com­pet­ing use of double vow­els which was favoured by some and are still used widely in Waikato.

Tech­nol­ogy was at first a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem. Many type­writ­ers could not cre­ate a macron. Com­put­ers of­ten couldn’t ei­ther. But now, the macron has tri­umphed. The Bi­ble has just been pub­lished in a new edi­tion, com­plete with to­huto¯ . It’s easy now to set up IT sys­tems to in­sert them. There’s even an on­line ser­vice to automatically add to­huto¯ to text.

We now have 20 years of peo­ple grad­u­at­ing from schools us­ing to­huto¯ in their writ­ten work. It is as nat­u­ral to those Ma¯ ori lan­guage users as dot­ting an ‘i’ in English.

The Ma¯ ori lan­guage is spo­ken con­ver­sa­tion­ally by about 130,000 peo­ple. 300,000 are learn­ing it at school. All will ap­pre­ci­ate Stuff’s ad­di­tion of the to­huto¯ to sto­ries.

It’s a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of te reo Ma¯ ori and is as im­por­tant as the ef­forts of broad­cast­ers to pro­nounce words cor­rectly. He rawe! Nga¯ mihi ki a koutou ka­toa.

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