Kia ora, mate!

Kia ora, mate!

Regarding vocabulary and grammar, māori english is highly similar to New Zealand english. This is why I will be looking further into New Zealand english to establish the differences with the canadian english dialect. However, māori english does have its own pecularities.

First off is the frequent use of traditional māori words in conversations with fellow māori people or when the subject regards the māori culture. There are no particular words that are commonly switched; they are mostly randomly chosen in sentences. Here is an example of a conversation between two people speaking māori english (in full verbatim, meaning this is written as oral english):

Lee: kia ora June. Where you been? Not seen you around for a while.
June: kia ora. I’ve just come back from my Nanny’s tangi [FUNERAL]. Been up in Rotorua for a week.
Lee: e kï [IS THAT SO!] A sad time for you, e hoa [MY FRIEND] and for all your family, ne? [ISN’T IT]
June: ae [YES]. We’ll all miss Nanny. She was a wonderful woman.

”Kia ora” is a commonly used greeting, not only by māori people, but also by New Zealanders in general. However, the other māori words used in this conversation were randomly chosen by the speakers.

Another difference that occurs in this english dialect is the great use of nicknames such as ”mate”, ”bro”, ”sis”, ”cuz” and ”auntie”. Those are used far more frequently in māori english than in New Zealand english or canadian english because familial relationships are highly important in the māori culture.

Finally, as I said sooner, most expressions used in māori english are actually NZE phrases, so I will be referencing to this other dialect to highlight the differences with canadian english. Here are some examples:

First of all Kiwi is not a fruit. In New Zealand, Kiwi either means New Zealanders or a bird (it is the country’s national bird). This is probably the first one to know, if you ever travel to New Zealand, although there are plenty more commonly used words which are very different from ours:

Mc Donald’s is Macca’s. (Interesting one, uh?)
Swimsuit becomes togs.
Flip flops (or sandals) are jandals (wait, what?).
A convenience store is a dairy (yes, really).
Someone with a anger problem is a angus (original, right?).
And someone who eats to much is a hungus (#relatable).

Kiwis also commonly use ”Faaa” either to express excitement or disappointment. It is believed to be a shortened version of ”f*ck” (pardon my french).

Finally, new zealanders and māori english users alike tend to use ”as” as an amplifier for adjectives. It is actually a way of not saying ”as f*ck” (New Zealanders are so vulgar…(that was a joke)). For example, ”This item is cheap as.” would mean the item the person is looking at is very very cheap.

What I have shown here is only a small sample of the tremenduous differences between canadian and māori english, but if you want to find out a bit more, you can consult the following websites:


Exploring the English Dialects of New Zealand: Māori English

Exploring the English Dialects of New Zealand: Māori English

New Zealand was initially occupied by polynesian tribes: the Tengata Whenua or “People of the Land”. The descendants of these tribes became known as the Māori, creating a culture of their own. The very first Europeans to set foot in New Zealand were a dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, and his men during the 17th century. A little over a hundred years later, british captain, James Cook, sailed to the islands. However, it is not before the 19th century that the european colonisation began.

This eclectic blend of cultures greatly influenced the
māori dialect. These days, only aboutlanguage 4% of the islands’ population speaks traditional māori, as opposed to, give or take, 96% for english. Note that a very minimal percentage of the population also speaks other languages, such as french, german, chinese and tagalog.

That being said, the strong presence of english in their environment caused the Māori to create a new dialect: māori English. Māori english distinguishes itself from New Zealand english through different fields of linguistics: phonology, rythm and even intonation. However, it is even further away from canadian english.

Here is an excerpt from the movie “Boy”, so you can hear the accent.

Māori english is categorized as a non-rhotic variety of english, meaning the speakers do not pronounce the consonant “r” while talking. However, linguists have found that they still pronounce the post-vocalic “r”. A post-vocalic “r” is found anytime the letter is placed after a vowel, before a consonant or in a final position. For example, māori english speakers would say [spikɜ:ʳ] as canadians say it, but they would say [ʒɒnə] instead of [ʒɒnrə].

Another distinction of māori english is the frequent use of the unaspirated “t”. An unaspirated “t” is when you produce the sound “t” without releasing air. For example, when you say “eat”, you are supposed to release some air at the end of the word. However, if you say “eat some”, no air should be released on the “t”. This pronunciation of the “t” is very common in the māori english dialect.

The last main difference from a phonetic point of view is the pronunciation of “s”, mainly at the end of a word (take plurals for example). They tend to merge the sound “z” with “s”. We also do that in canadian english, in the word “dogs”, for instance, that becomes [dɒgzs] when pronunced. The only difference is it’s used a lot more often in the māori english dialect.

Another major difference is the rythm. The main explanation for it is that, unlike canadians do, maori anglish speakers do not skip over unstressed syllables; the syllables are usually all the same lenght, making it stray away from the canadian language even more.

Finally, there is one last characteristic of the maori english dialect that makes it very different from our pronunciation: the high rising terminal. What does that mean? That simply means that the people who speak this dialect usually end their sentences, which are statements, in a higher pitch. This can confuse some people, because high rising terminals are more commonly used in questions. The use of “eh!” at the end of sentences is also a characteristic of maori english, but that would be one of the common points with canadians…