The power of language to the fore
In conjunction with Ma¯ori Language Week, Massey University’s Hone Morris provides some background about the importance macrons in te reo Ma¯ori.
The Ma¯ori language was initially a language communicated orally.
It is an official language of New Zealand along with sign language.
It was Thomas Kendall and the missionaries who first attempted to write letters to translate the bible in te reo Ma¯ori in 1815.
However, it was Samuel Lee, Hongi Hika and Te Waikato who created the present alphabet in 1820.
Consisting of eight consonants, five vowels and two digraphs ‘wh’ and ‘ng’.
This was a good alphabet but was lacking a symbol to indicate the length of vowel pronunciation.
This occurred in 1917 in the first issue of Herbert William’s Ma¯ori dictionary.
The symbol that was chosen was the macron ‘o¯’ from the Latin language.
Other languages such as Spanish and Portuguese use the tilde symbol ‘n˜’ (sen˜or).
The purpose of these types of symbols is to assist people to pronounce words correctly.
For example the words pa¯pa¯ (father), papa¯ (explode) and papa (flat, earth) have a different pronunciation so we don’t call our fathers ‘explosion’ even though maybe sometimes they do explode.
Another way to assist correct pronunciation of the Ma¯ori language is through syllabification, which is slightly different than English.
For example, we commonly hear the English pronunciation of the word Manawatu¯ like this = Man / na / watu, Ma¯ori like this = Ma / na¯ / wa¯ / tu¯. In Ma¯ori each syllable ends with a vowel, in English with a consonant.
So friends, let’s make that effort to focus on the macron to pronounce the Ma¯ori language correctly to give true meaning to each word.
HE MANA TO¯ TE REO
Ko te reo Ma¯ori he reo a¯-waha i te tuatahi.
He reo whai mana i Aotearoa me te reo rotarota.
Na¯ Thomas Kendall me nga¯ mihinare e¯tahi kupu i waihanga kia tuhia te rongopai ki te reo Ma¯ori i te tau 1815 e taea ai hoki te whakawhiti whakaaro.
Heoi ano¯, ko Hamiora Rı¯ ra¯tou ko Hongi Hika ko Te Waikato te ta¯tai pu¯ i waihanga i te tau 1820.
E 8 nga¯ orokati, e 5 nga¯ oropuare, e rua nga¯ orotahi pu¯rua ‘wh’ me ‘ng’.
Ahakoa he pu¯naha pai taua punaha pu¯, kı¯hai i whakaritea te¯tahi tohu hei tohu i te roa o te whakahua oropuare.
I pe¯nei i te tau 1917, i te putanga tuarima o te papakupu ‘Wiremu’.
Ko te tohu ‘o¯’ i ko¯whirihia hei tohu i te tohuto¯ i takea mai i te reo Ra¯tina.
Kei e¯tahi atu reo pe¯ra¯ i te reo Paniora, i te reo Po¯tikı¯ te¯tahi tohu ‘tilde’ ‘n˜’ (sen˜or) me te ‘a˜’. Kei te reo Tiamani te tohu umlaut ‘u¨’ (u¨ber), te reo Wı¯wı¯ te ‘oˆ’ (entrepoˆt).
Ko ta¯ e¯nei momo tohu he a¯whina i te tangata kia tika ai te whakahua kupu.
Hei tauira, ko nga¯ kupu pa¯pa¯ (father), papa¯ (explode) me papa (flat, earth) ka rereke¯ te whakahua kia kore ta¯tou e karanga atu ki o¯ ta¯tou pa¯pa¯ hei papa¯ ahakoa pea ka pe¯ra¯ ie¯tahi wa¯.
Ko te¯tahi kupu a¯whina hei whakahua kupu Ma¯ori ko te whakawehe a¯-ku¯oro, he paku rereke¯ i ta¯ te reo Ingarihi.
Hei tauira, ka rongohia te whakahua a¯–ingarihi o te kupu Manawatu¯ epe¯nei ana = Man / na / watu, ko ta¯ teMa¯ori e pe¯nei ana = Ma / na¯ / wa¯ / tu¯. I te reo Ma¯ori e mutu ai ia ku¯oro i te¯tahi oropuare, i te reo Ingarihi e mutu ai i te¯tahi orokati.
No¯ reira, e hika ma¯ kia kaha te aro mai ki te tohuto¯ o te reo Ma¯ori e tika ai te whakahua o te kupu, ma¯ reira e tika ai te tikanga.
* Hone Morris is an academic co-ordinator and Ma¯ori language translator at Massey University’s Te Putahia-Toi.
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