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 about 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…