The power of lan­guage to the fore

The Tribune (NZ) - - CONVERSATION -

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.


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.


The Tri­bune wel­comes let­ters. They should not ex­ceed 250 words and must carry a gen­uine name, home ad­dress and day­time phone num­ber. Let­ters may be edited, abridged or omit­ted with­out ex­pla­na­tion. They can be emailed to tri­ or posted to PO Box 3, Palmer­ston North to be re­ceived by 4pm on the Thurs­day prior to pub­li­ca­tion.

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