Use and acceptance of Maori borrowings in New Zealand English

Examination Thesis, 2006

114 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents


1. New Zealand English as a variety of World English
1.1 The development of distinctive English varieties
1.2 The Antipodes

2. Languages in New Zealand
2.1 New Zealand English
2.1.1 Linguistic research on NZE
2.1.2 Grammar and spelling
2.1.3 Lexicon
2.1.4 Phonology
2.1.5 Variation within NZE
2.2 Māori English
2.3 Te reo Māori (the Māori language)

3. Language contact phenomena
3.1 Language contact and bilingualism
3.2 Consequences of language contact: contact phenomena
3.2.1 Analysing contact phenomena:
the Matrix Language Frame model
3.2.2 Types of contact phenomena
3.3 Lexical transfer: borrowing
3.3.1 Defining the term ‘borrowing’
3.3.2 Classification of borrowed items
3.3.3 Assimilation processes
3.3.4 Motivations for borrowing
3.3.5 Borrowing vs. Code-switching

4. The history of English borrowing from Māori
4.1 The arrival of the Māori people in NZ
4.2 European colonisation:
the first wave of English borrowing from Māori
4.2.1 Sociohistorical background Pre-colonial intake: First language contact The influence of British missionaries on te reo Māori The colonisation of New Zealand
4.2.2 Lexical transfer and the use of Māori loanwords
4.3 New Zealand becomes a nation
4.3.1 Sociohistorical background
4.3.2 Use of Māori borrowings
4.3.3 Towards an acceptance of
Māori borrowings in the 20th century
4.4 The Māori Renaissance:
the second wave of English borrowing from Māori
4.4.1 Sociohistorical background
4.4.2 Motivations for renewed borrowing from Māori…
4.4.3 Categorisation of Māori borrowings
4.4.4 Who uses Māori borrowings ?
4.4.5 Anglicisation and its constraints
4.4.6 Māori words used by Māori speakers of NZE:
Borrowing or CS ?

5. The use of Māori borrowings in present NZE – a Pilot Study
5.1 Aim of this study
5.2 Method
5.2.1 Māori borrowings listed in the pilot study
5.2.2 Subjects
5.3 Results
5.3.1 Letter sample
5.3.2 Wordlist
5.4 Discussion
5.5 Conclusion

6. International use of Māori borrowings in English –
illustrated by a German sample

7. Summary

8. References
8.1 Literature
8.2 Internet References
8.3 Other references

9. Appendix
9.1 Abbreviations
9.2 Tables and Figures
9.3 E-mails
9.4 Pilot Study
9.5 German sample – Questionnaire


New Zealand English is the variety of English that is spoken by the roughly 4 million inhabitants of New Zealand – a South Pacific state which consists of two main islands simply called the North and the South Island. New Zealand is a bicultural country with both English and Māori[1] being its official languages. Since the British colonisation of the young state in 1840, these two languages have been coexisting side by side and, in consequence, have influenced each other. One result of this long-standing and intensive language contact is the incorporation of Māori loans into New Zealand English (NZE), which distinguishes it most distinctly from other national standards, as no other variety of English shares this feature with NZE. Thus, the use and acceptance of Māori borrowings in NZE will be the main subject of this paper.

In the first part of this paper, the position of NZE among other national varieties of English will be discussed. This will be followed by a closer examination of the languages that have participated in the process of borrowing in NZ. Since borrowing is a phenomenon resulting from language contact, the third chapter will give an overview about the extra- and intralinguistic factors that form the frame for the process of borrowing. On the background of those conditions the use and acceptance of Māori borrowings in NZE will then be comprehensively discussed. There are remarkable differences in the process of lexical transfer as well as in the use of the Māori loanwords at different stages in New Zealand’s history. Therefore, the history of English borrowing from Māori will be examined according to these stages in the fourth part. Following this, the present use of these loans will be investigated by the data deriving from a pilot study which was carried out in 2005/2006 and is based on a sample of 40 subjects living in New Zealand. The findings of this study will then be compared to a German control group to determine to which extent Māori loans have gained some international currency.

It is my hope to contribute to the previous research on Māori borrowings in New Zealand English by giving a comprehensive account of both the history as well as the current state of the use and acceptance of these borrowings in the English spoken in New Zealand.

1. New Zealand English as a variety of World English

1.1 The development of distinctive English varieties

The history of the English language is a unique example of what languages are able to do, as there is “no other language that has undergone a similar expansion since Greek and Roman times” (Bailey/Görlach 1984: 1).

The fourteenth century marked the beginning of the development of Modern English as a national language. At this time it was unimaginable what the future was going to hold for a language that, in those times, was nothing else than the native tongue of a small people in England. From this time onwards, the enormous success of English worldwide took its course. The great age of British exploration, which stretched from about 1600 to 1750, marked the beginning of the global spread of English. British colonies were established all over the world and formed the basis for English to put down roots in various places far from its mother country (Ronowicz 1999: 12 ).

The exploration and colonization of new territories did not just mean a transplanting of European lifestyle and values to the foreign regions. There was a entirely new world that presented itself to explorers, traders, and settlers who, in order to survive, needed to adapt to their new surroundings. The most obvious differences between the European home country and the new colonies were to be seen in the native flora and fauna, which has led to a number of coinages, compounds or borrowings from indigenous languages as the English lexicon did not offer any names for the new items. Words like zebra, kiwi, or koala still bear witness to those processes. The different natural environment, which comprises geological and meteorological factors too, demanded an adjustment of the settlers’ lifestyle as a whole. As in North America, for example, the emergence of a new way of living –the lifestyle of the cowboys- had a great impact on the way people thought and spoke. It supplied the English lexicon with various items like the compound cowboy itself. Another important issue in the context of colonisation is the contact between European settlers and the indigenous peoples in the different countries. The culture of the original inhabitants presented a foreign world to the Europeans and eventually formed a rich source for lexical borrowing: tipi, squaw, and marae are only three of numerous examples.

Next to the contact with a foreign environment and the resulting changes in the English lexicon, there was also the English-speaking settlers’ permanent geographical separation from their homeland, which had a significant impact on the development of the Englishes that were spoken in the colonies and eventually led to the development of English varieties that have become distinctive to the respective countries.

As a result of colonisation by large-scale immigration of European settlers, the population of the colonies increased immensely and finally led to the gradual establishment of (colonial) governments. During this period, which roughly dates from 1750 to 1900, English came to be recognized as a national language in overseas colonies (Ronowicz/Yallop 1999: 12 f.). With the recognition of English as a national language the indigenous peoples were forced to learn English in order to integrate into the dominant European society and with that to evade economic misfortune. This again meant a further growth in the number of the speakers of English worldwide. Furthermore, from about 1900 onwards the former colonies began offering education in English not only to immigrants and settlers but also to the indigenous people of the land, which eventually resulted in a still increasing number of people who spoke the language (Ronowicz/Yallop 1999: 12 f.).

The various features of colonial life and development mentioned above obviously formed the frame for the emergence of several distinctive local varieties of English all over the world – each with its own markers of their national standard of English.

Kachru (1992: 356) claims that “the current sociolinguistic profile of English may be viewed in terms of three concentric circles.” The Expanding Circle, which among others includes China, Japan and Saudi Arabia, refers to regions where English is used as a foreign language and is rather restricted in its use. The Outer Circle represents the “institutionalized non-native varieties” (ibid.), meaning those countries where English is spoken as a second language, as for example in India, Kenya and Zambia. The Inner Circle, which counts about 350 million native speakers of English, includes those countries where English is the primary language: the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with the last two of them having the smallest numbers of native speakers (about 20 million together) and the most recent history of European colonisation (Kachru 1992: 356 f.).

1.2 The Antipodes

Among the countries mentioned above, there are two former British colonies that are marked by several similarities regarding both their history as well as their geographical setting: Australia and New Zealand - usually referred to as the Antipodes. Their shared identity as former British colonies situated in the southern hemisphere is most remarkably reflected in the linguistic research and discussion on world varieties of English. Until recently, there was a relatively small number of essays on New Zealand English itself. Compared to BrE, AmE or SAfrE, variations that are obviously discussed in separate essays, New Zealand English (NZE) and Australian English (AusE) have usually been examined under the cover term ‘the Antipodes’, or have simply been referred to as ‘English in Australia and New Zealand’. An example of this can be found in Bailey’s and Görlach’s (eds.) English as a world language (1984), which contains several essays, each supplying the reader with information on one of the world varieties of English. However, NZE and AusE are not discussed separately, but can be found together in Eagleson’s English in Australia and New Zealand.

Their common history of linguistic research obviously derives from their similar histories of colonisation: While the first British contact with North America dates back to the late 16th century, the arrival of the English language in the southern hemisphere did not happen before the second half of the 18th century. This means that the state of the English language was somewhat different when arriving in the Antipodes, as there are roughly 200 years between the exploration of the two continents. In Australia, the first penal colony was established at Sydney in 1788, whereas it was not before 1840 that New Zealand became an official colony with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Thus, both NZE and AusE may be understood as quite young varieties of English (Burridge/Mulder 1998: 36 f.).

Furthermore, when British settlers arrived in the Antipodes they were confronted with an environment that immensely differed from that of the northern hemisphere. This eventually led to the need of adjustment to the new conditions. In consequence, the European settlers’ lifestyle significantly changed and with that the English language spoken by them was largely affected. New lexical items like compounds, derivations or coinages, but also words which were borrowed from the indigenous languages entered the English lexicon (Eagleson 1984: 417 ff.). This expansion of the lexicon led to the development of several of the so-called ‘Australasianisms’ – lexical items distinctive to AusE and NZE. In some of these entries a semantic shift has taken place, so that they only differ in meaning from BrE: bush (referring to the less settled parts of the countries) and home (with the additional sense of Great Britain) are just two of a whole range of expressions which are especially or even exclusively found in the English(es) of the Antipodes (Eagleson 1984: 418; Yallop 1999: 40).

Moreover, the huge geographical separation from Great Britain over the following decades had a great impact on the language spoken in the Antipodes and may be one of the reasons for the distinctive local pronunciation, which occurred quite early in both varieties. Even if the “the precise mechanism of this development is not known” (Yallop 1999: 32), there are at least two theories about the development of a distinctive accent in the Antipodes: the ‘mixing bowl theory’ (meaning that AusE developed from a process of blending of the original British dialects that came to the country with the early settlers) and the ‘single origin theory’ (suggesting that London English was the basis for the development of the AusE accent). It is assumed that both theories are compatible: undoubtedly there was a London dominance in Australia, but, taking the other English dialects present at this time into account, the melting pot theory contributed quite early to the development of a certain homogeneity in AusE. With the distinctive Australian accent having developed quite early, the foundations for a NZE accent were laid. In the pre-colonial period of NZ, most of the settlers came from Australia (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 11) and imported the AusE accent into the country.[2] Consequently, there already must have been a strong presence of the Australian accent in NZ when official British settlement began and introduced the British accent to the country. With both, the mixing bowl theory as well as the single origin theory, having contributed to the development of a distinctive NZ accent, it linguistically falls somewhere between AusE and BrE. Thus, the English varieties in the Antipodes are relatively close regarding pronunciation (Burridge/Mulder 1998: 37 ff.).

After the first decades of colonisation, New Zealand and Australia developed into states with their own governmental systems. However, it was only recently that the two countries became independent from Britain, which reflects the long-standing ties between the Antipodes and the motherland of the English language. In Australia this process happened gradually starting with the Australian Colonies Government Act[3] in 1850 and finally ending with the Australian Act in 1986 (Strzysch/Weiß 1998: 78 f.). New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907, but did not become an independent state before 1947.[4]

This long-lasting connection to Great Britain accounts for the tendency to follow British spelling conventions as can be seen in words like defence or programme, (Yallop 1999: 28 ff.). Moreover, despite the early development of distinctive accents, speakers of English in both Australia and New Zealand have always admired Received Pronunciation as the ideal way of speaking English (which however is not a unique occurrence regarding the high social status of RP). Nevertheless, this tendency seems to decrease as a result of a growing sense of identity of the southern states, which has eventually resulted in a greater awareness of features being distinctive to the Englishes spoken in each of the two countries (Yallop 1999: 28 ff.).

However, in the light of the growing international usage of English and the increasing communication between speakers of different English varieties, the future of NZE and AusE becomes questionable (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 110 f.). First, the impact of AmE on all other varieties of English is undeniable. The growing influence of AmE on especially the younger generations has led to an increasing adoption of American expressions in various English-speaking communities. Second, changes in the regional varieties of English have been slowed down, and the mutual influence between them has increased. As a result of the relatively short history of NZE and AusE, these varieties are much more threatened to be assimilated as they did not have the chance to develop such strong and distinctive features as for example BrE and AmE, (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 110 f.).

However, perhaps the increasing loss of diversity in the English language, together with a growing sense of national identity in the Antipodes, is just another reason to retain and even emphasise the distinctive features of the Englishes spoken in the Antipodes.

2. Languages in New Zealand

2.1 New Zealand English

2.1.1 Linguistic research on NZE

Before the first official British settlement in New Zealand most settlers came from Australia, and this immigration continued with the gold rush in the 19th century. Therefore, ties between the two southern countries were always close. This still can be observed in the number of features distinctive to the Englishes in the Antipodes. However, there are some unique features securing NZE a firm place among the world varieties of English. (Burridge/Mulder 1998: 38)

Extensive studies of NZE as a distinctive variety of English did not occur before the second half of the 20th century. One of the main reasons for the low interest in the English spoken in NZ may have been the attitude towards it. As most of the settlers came from Great Britain and the European settlement history of New Zealand started quite late, the ties to the mother country were still strong. Speakers of English were more eager to speak the ‘King’s English’ than to accept the “non-standard colonial form” (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 107) in NZ as their marker of identity. This is especially true for pronunciation, as RP[5] was, and to a certain extent still is, an indicator of higher social status.[6] In the beginning of the 20th century the NZ Department of Education recommended that schoolchildren should copy the King’s speech and even published a bulletin with the headline Speech Training (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 161 f.).

Bennett (1943: 69), being British himself, gives other reasons for the small number of essays on NZE: he argues that it is rather difficult for New Zealanders to study their own language as this would demand self-criticism (which once more reveals the attitude towards NZE in those days), and visitors who would be able to conduct such a study do not stay long enough in the country.

A third reason for the late efforts to study NZE as a distinctive variety of English can be seen in the close (historical) ties between Australia and New Zealand, which have resulted in recognizable similarities in the two varieties of English. Speakers of other varieties hardly perceive any differences between the two (Bell/Holmes 1996: 169). These are facts that led to the habit of studying NZE and AusE together for a long time.

In the middle of the 1980s there was a remarkable change in the study of NZE coinciding with the first conference on the English spoken in NZ in 1986. Following this event, linguists became interested in the subject and research on NZE began to increase (Kuiper/Bell 2000: 15 f.). These changes in the recognition of NZE as a distinctive variety were only possible through the changing attitudes towards English as a world language: in the 1970s, the “Britocentric” or “Americocentric” focus shifted towards a more polycentric view, which resulted in a growing awareness and acceptance of national varieties and with that an increasing study of these Englishes. This was eventually followed by the emergence of dictionaries for each national standard of English (McArthur 2003: IX f.). An outstanding example of these changes in NZ is the publication of Orsman’s Dictionary of New Zealand English in 1997 - a dictionary including nearly 8,ooo headwords, quotations and other printed sources that are common in the English usage in New Zealand (Kuiper/Bell 2000:15).

Another landmark for the linguistic research on NZE is the accomplishment of three corpora completed at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, Victoria University of Wellington (Vine 1999: 59 f.): the Wellington Corpus of Written New Zealand English (WWC), the Wellington Corpus of Spoken New Zealand English (WSC) and the New Zealand Component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-NZ). The WWC, which contains various writings published between 1986 and 1990, follows the pattern of other corpora of AmE, BrE, and AusE published in earlier days.[7] The WSC was completed some time later (mid-1998) and contains various monologues and dialogues of formal, semi-formal, and informal speech. The most recently completed corpora at Victoria University is the ICE-NZ. It forms the second component of the ICE[8] – a project with the aim to accomplish corpora of various regional varieties of English as a comprehensive source for both research in the individual varieties as well as comparative studies. With the publication of the three corpora, linguistic research reached a new level and new studies had a reliable source for gaining data on the English spoken in New Zealand (Vine 1999: 59 f.).

In summary, linguistics in NZ changed from a prescriptive to a descriptive view only recently (Kuiper/Bell 2000: 15). Despite a few researchers[9] having attempted to study some aspects of NZE around the middle of the 20th century, it was not until the 1980s that NZE became the object of comprehensive study: the first collection of essays on NZE, which focus on sociolinguistic aspects, was published by Bell and Holmes in 1990 (Kuiper/Bell 2000: 20).

2.1.2 Grammar and spelling

The English language is remarkably uniform in its written form. Spelling conventions and grammar are the fields that differ least when comparing the various regional varieties of English. As mentioned before, when there are two alternatives, speakers of NZE tend to follow British spelling conventions. For example, verbs ending on ‘ise’/’ize’ (like apologise) tend to be spelled with an with an ‘s’ in NZE (Yallop 1999: 30).

Regarding grammar, NZE tends to follow BrE morphology and syntax (Bauer 1994: 400). Yet, there are a few features that distinguish NZE from BrE: first, speakers of NZE prefer the –ves plurals in words like hoof and roof. Second, the past participle form proven is more often used in NZ than in the UK. Third, the auxiliary verb do is used with have in questions and negations. Fourth, speakers of NZE often use the –ie diminutive ending as in sickie (‘day off work’). One more tendency which is noteworthy is that New Zealanders use to switch from transitive to intransitive (and vice versa) in certain verbs. An example can be found in the sentence We are meeting with the union, (Bauer 1994: 400).

However, most of these features are not established as rules but are tendencies typically occurring in the English spoken in NZ. The most obvious features of NZE, which most remarkably separate it from other varieties of English, can be found in the fields of the lexicon and phonology.

2.1.3 Lexicon

Languages are subject to continuous change which predominantly becomes obvious in the changing use of words and phrases, as “it is the lexicon which reflects the culture and its speakers most closely” (Macalister 2000: 41). This can also be perceived in the NZE lexicon.

NZE shares a lot of lexical items with AusE which mainly consist of colloquialisms as well as items referring to occupational terms. However, Deverson (2000: 27) argues that Orsman’s Dictionary of New Zealand English (1997) reveals that there is a much smaller number of Australasianisms (words that are distinctive of NZE and AusE) than suggested for a long time.[10] In the DNZE, which lists about 6,000 headwords, there are only about 700 words shared with AusE. The findings of a comparison of the AusE and NZE Pocket Oxford Dictionary by Deverson (2000: 27) show that NZE shares only a quarter to a fifth of the non-international AusE lexical items.

A very common occurrence is the use of lexical items which are in standard English usage but have adopted another meaning in NZE. The expression bach (also valid as an example of derivation as the word derives from bachelor) for example originally referred to a “makeshift hut, usu. one in which a man living alone fends for himself” (OED), but nowadays it is used in reference to a holiday house. Another example is gully, which “means nothing more than a strip of ground lying between two hills, and having a ‘creek’ flowing down its centre” (quotation from 1871; taken from the OED)[11].

As the BrE lexicon did not offer any words for various concepts the British settlers filled these lexical gaps by combining words which already existed in the English lexicon. An example of this is the compound share-milker (Eagleson 1984: 417 f.). Other examples include The King Country, which was the area of the Māori King movement in the North Island in the 19th century (Bennet 1943: 75) , or eye-dog as an example of the farming vocabulary being destinctive to NZE.[12]

Next to the several terms that entered the NZE lexicon in the beginnings of the development of this variety, there is another source for lexical items used in NZE: American English, which has gained a worldwide influence during the last decades. The most common Americanisms in NZE are guy (sex-neutrally), movie or truck.

However, the most obvious part of the lexicon being unique to NZE derives from the language of the indigenous people of New Zealand. There is a remarkable number of Māori borrowings that can be found in the English spoken in NZ, and some of them have even entered the lexicon of Standard English: words like Māori itself or Kiwi (with its three meanings: inhabitants of NZ, fruit, and flightless bird) are in common use worldwide.[13] As the Māori dimension in NZE is the “main feature that distinguishes it from other regional varieties” (Macalister 1999: 38) it will be comprehensively discussed in Chapter 4.

2.1.4 Phonology

Next to the lexicon, the phonology of NZE shows the most obvious features of the presence of a distinctive variety of English. Despite strenuous efforts to keep the English spoken in New Zealand ‘clean’ (meaning to transplant and maintain the British pronunciation, or rather RP, in the new colony), the young nation developed its own unique variety of English quite early (Parker 1999: 192). As already discussed in Chapter 1.2, the NZE accent is closely related to the one of AusE. In consequence, most speakers of English in the northern hemisphere hardly notice any differences between the two varieties. An example of a feature of pronunciation shared by both varieties is the use of the “schwa” vowel in unstressed syllables of words like carpet and rabbit. Speakers of NZE and AusE would pronounce the schwa as [ ]. (Parker 1999: 192)

However, there are some other features which are distinctive to NZE and, thus, are not shared with AusE. The most commonly observed phenomenon in the pronunciation of NZE is the growing merger of the diphthongs /I / and /e / in words like fear and fair.[14] This again is closely connected to a general centralisation of /I/ in words like six, lift and hit, which may sound to non-New Zealanders like sucks, luft and hut. (Parker 1999: 191) Furthermore, the pronunciation of the word happy with a long vowel, the diphthongisation of /u/ and /I/ in words like goose and geese, and the neutralisation of / / and / / before /l/ and a voiceless obstruent (as in gulf and golf) are some of the most obvious features of NZE[15] (Bauer 1994: 394).

2.1.5 Variation within NZE

Regarding accent, NZE is marked by a striking regional uniformity (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 126 f.). Reasons for this fact may be seen in the recent settlement history of the country, the steady immigration to all parts of the country, and of course the growing possibilities of communication across the country. One may even say that New Zealand and inventions like steam engines, electronic communication and cars “grew up” roughly at the same time. Consequently, speakers of NZE did not experience the conditions to develop regional varieties (which needs a more or less isolated speech community), as for example English-speakers in North America did. However, some tendencies can be observed in the sense of regional distinctiveness (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 126 f.).

Bauer (2000: 51f.) states that it is not possible to find any clear-cut answers to the question from which region of the British Isles the early settlers in NZ originated, as most of them entered NZ via Australia. However, she has discovered hints for a striking influence of Scottish English on the NZE accent. Furthermore, it is commonly agreed on the fact that there are a few parts of NZ which were settled from a rather restricted region in Britain. Otago, for example, was mainly settled by Scots[16] (Bauer 2000: 40 f.). This is assumed to account for the most obvious regional divergence in NZE pronunciation: the so-called “Southland burr” (the technical term is “post-vocalic /r/”), occurring only in Otago and Southland (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 128).

Tendencies of regional distinctiveness (even if only on a small scale) can also be seen in the field of vocabulary. An examples of a regionally different use of words can be observed when referring to ‘a certain type of large, smooth sausage’: in Auckland you will rather hear polony whereas in Southland it is called Belgium roll/sausage (Gramley/Pätzold 2004: 306). Furthermore, a preferential use of certain lexical items may also be observed in the area of farming vocabulary (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 127 f.).

Yet, language does not only vary on a geographical level but also on the social scale. For a long time there have not been observed any differences concerning socio-economic class in NZ. Early comments on the lack of variation on this level contribute this to the fact that NZ is a “society in which inequalities of wealth have been steadily reduced “ (Bennet 1943: 69). For a long time there was the strong belief that NZ is a ‘classless’ society. However, in recent times, it is argued that this is not all the case (Bayard 1996: 169). Reasons for this change may be seen in the economic difficulties in the years after Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community in 1972 and the oil crisis in the years of 1973 to 1974 (Sinclair 1990: 356). Kuiper and Bell (2000: 13), however, state that there has been a shift in the stratification of the social classes in NZ since the 1990s. As a result of these late (and rather slight) changes, variation on the level of social class has not been studied comprehensively yet.

However, as Maclagan already stated in 1982, there can be observed three kinds of NZE: cultivated, general and broad.[17] Here, cultivated NZE, being most closely to RP, represents one end of the scale, with broad NZE (most local kind of speech) embodying the other end (Parker 1999: 194 f.; Yallop 1999: 32 f.).

Since variation resulting from different social-economic backgrounds has always been less intensively observed in NZE, sociolinguistic studies have more intensively focused on variation due to the speaker’s ethnicity. This research led to a number of studies dealing with the possible presence of a special dialect of NZE: Māori English.

2.2 Māori English

A significant feature of NZE is the fact that it is also spoken as a second language (ESL) in NZ (Turner 1970: 100). This is especially the case for many of the New Zealanders who are not of European descent, meaning predominantly those coming from one of the Pacific Islands, or those who claim to be of Māori descent. As the Māori are the indigenous people of the country and constitute about 14 per cent of the whole population, their significance concerning linguistic matters cannot be denied, especially in the light of the recognition of te reo Māori (the Māori language) as an official language in NZ in recent times. As a consequence of this side-by-side existence of both NZE and NZ Māori (NZM) the influence on each other has always been strong (Holmes 1997: 69). A result of this language contact was the development of a distinctive dialect of NZE: Māori English (NZME).

A possible source of NZME may be seen in the large-scale shift from Māori to English after the establishment of New Zealand as a British colony. The Europeans had established their rule as colonial superiors and the Māori needed to learn English in order to be able to trade with the Europeans and, thus, to ensure their survival in the new system.[18] Many of the original Māori L2[19] learners of English may have transferred features of their mother tongue to the English they had learnt to speak. Those features were eventually adopted by the following generations – even if those were speakers of English as a first language (EFL). Bell (2000: 223 f.) suggests three theories about the way NZME has developed the distinctive features that have made it to a recognised dialect of NZE. He argues that, first, those features employed by the early Māori learners of English have been maintained, and perhaps even more emphasized since the beginnings of the Māori Renaissance in the 1980s.[20] The second theory says that the English spoken by Māori is directly influenced by the Māori language even in present days. A third approach focuses on the significance of the economic situation of many Māori: as the indigenous people of NZ are remarkably high represented in the lower socio-economic class, they presumably take over features of vernacular English to signal ethnic identity.

At least from the 1960s onwards, linguists have been looking for distinctive features which would warrant to speak of a Māori dialect of NZE. By 1990 they had almost given up, when in the following years extensive studies revealed obvious differences between the English spoken by Māori and Pākehā (Bell 2000: 221 f.). The differences found in those studies are now commonly accepted to be distinctive to Māori English. Regarding the lexical dimension of NZME, there are strong tendencies of a more extensive use of Māori words than can be found in standard NZE. However, it must be acknowledged that dialogues among Māori more often deal with Māori issues, resulting in a more frequent use of Māori words (Holmes 1997: 73 f.). Another common marker of NZME may be seen in a special way of addressing people, which was transplanted from the Māori language system to English: a differentiation of the pronoun you. Speakers of NZME distinguish between you (singular), youse (dual) and youse fullas (plural), (Burridge/Mulder 1998: 12).

In a recent study carried out by Bell (2000), one Pākehā and one Māori speaker of English have been tested for the use of certain features possibly significant for Māori English. On the whole, the findings confirmed the results of earlier studies on NZME suggesting a more frequent use of the following features in the speech of Māori speakers of English: the discourse particle eh, the y’know particle, a deletion of the perfect marker have, a non-aspiration of initial t (realisation of the phoneme /t/ as [t] not [th]), affrication or stopping of th (the realisation of the phoneme /θ/ as either [tθ] or [t]), and the affrication or stopping of dh (the realisation of / / as either [d ] or [d]), (Bell 2000: 228 ff.).

Differences in the realisation of certain phonemes can be attributed to the phonetic features of the Māori language, which does not offer any voiced obstruents, voiceless affricatives and most of the voiceless fricatives[21] (Bell 2000: 236). Furthermore, it needs to be noted that studies on NZME are carried out on a comparative basis among NZ speakers of English. Even if features like eh, y’know, and the deletion of have are also commonly observed in other regional varieties of English, they may be seen as potential features of NZME as they tend to occur more often in the English spoken by Māori than in the English spoken by Pākehā (Bell 2000: 229 ff.).

Moreover, linguists distinguish between two varieties within NZME: Māori English 1 and Māori English 2.[22] The first refers to the “English of educated middle-class Maori New Zealanders” (Holmes 1997: 70) and differs from the English spoken by Pākehā mainly in pronunciation. Māori English 2 is spoken by the Māori “from lower socio-economic backgrounds” (Holmes 1997: 70), and it differs from Pākehā English in phonology, grammar and vocabulary.

In conclusion, Māori English differs from the English of Pākehā in a way that there are more or less strong tendencies to use certain features attributed to NZME. The frequency of occurrence of these features in English speech varies according to the speakers’ wish to identify with Māori culture (which can also be observed in the speech of a few Pākehā), since NZME serves to signal Māori identity in discourse (Holmes 1997: 97). With decreasing numbers of speakers of te reo Māori and its possible distinction, people may see NZME as a possibility to maintain features of the Māori language itself. Thus, the significance of NZME as a marker of ethnic identity may become even greater (Burridge/Mulder 1998: 12) since “everything that differentiates a group from another group constitutes the group’s identity” (Appel/Muysken 1987: 12). Eventually, this may be what Māori English is all about.

2.3 Te reo Māori (the Māori language)

The number of fluent Māori speakers has significantly decreased over the last century. In 1973, 18 percent of the whole population were able to speak the language. Nowadays, there are about 160,500 speakers of Māori (with 81 percent of them being of Māori ethnicity), which is 4.3 percent of the whole NZ population.[23] Thus, the indigenous language is seriously threatened by a total extinction.[24]

Māori belongs to the Polynesian languages, which are a subdivision of the Austronesian linguistic family. More strictly speaking, it belongs to the Eastern group of the Polynesian group, which accounts for the striking similarities to Hawaiian or Tahitian[25] (Krupa 1968: 14 f.).

As a consequence of the fact that British missionaries introduced a written form of Māori[26], the language is represented by the Roman alphabet (Krupa 1968: 20; Gordon/Deverson 1998: 122). Te reo Māori consists of 10 letters and letter groups (h, k, m, n, ng, p, r, t, w, wh) which represent the 10 consonant sounds /h/, /k/, /m/, /n/, / /, /p/, /r/, /t/, /w/ and /f/ and five letters (a, e , i , o, u) that are used to write the Māori vowels / /, /e/, /I/, / /, and / /. Long vowels in modern Māori are either written with a macron above the letter in question, or the respective letter is doubled: the long variant of a thus would be either ā or aa. However, the use of macrons has officially been backed by the Māori Language Commission and is now commonly accepted. If different vowels occur together, each vowel is given its own value and there are no silent letters in Māori (Krupa 1968: 20; Gordon/Deverson 1998: 122).

Furthermore, except of wh and ng, which are pronounced as single phonemes (/f/ and / /), Māori does not have any consonant cluster and thus is determined by a “canonical (C)V syllable structure” (Bell 2000: 236).

Another important feature of te reo Māori is the practice of signalling plural in nouns: te reo, for example, would become ngā reo if referring to more than one language. Thus, Māori does not signal plural by adding the inflexion -s, but changes the definite article (Gordon/Deverson 1998: 123).

Knowing these features of the Māori language has become quite important regarding both the huge amount of Māori loanwords in NZE and the increasing conviction that borrowings from Māori should be treated like Māori words and should not be Anglicized as a matter of respect.

3. Language contact phenomena

3.1 Language contact and bilingualism

“Language contact happens where two languages coexist in individual speakers and speech communities.” This definition by Görlach (1997: 137) shows very plainly what language contact is actually about: since ‘the coexistence two languages’ refers to a bilingual[27] situation of some kind, it is bilingualism that is inevitably linked to language contact. Thus, it is important to define the term at first.

The major differentiation within the concept of bilingualism is the one between individual bilingualism and societal bilingualism. The former refers to individual speakers who use two or more languages, whereas the latter refers to a society with two different speech communities (Myers-Scotton 2002: 30). Furthermore, Appel/Muysken (1987: 2) differentiate between three types of societal bilingualism: First, the speakers of the two different speech communities are all monolingual. Second, the speakers of both speech communities are bilingual in both languages, and third, the speakers of language X are monolingual whereas the speakers of language Y are bilingual in both languages. The latter type of bilingualism can often be observed in societies with minorities that are bilingual in both languages for sociolinguistic reasons.

When speaking about bilingualism it is worth mentioning that it is a matter of degree whether a speaker can be said to be bilingual. The degree of proficiency in both languages can strongly vary as Skutnabb-Kangas[28] (In: Hoffmann 1997: 27) puts on display in a table[29] that defines bilingualism according to four different criteria: origin, competence, function and attitudes. In her definition, the level of proficiency reaches from “complete mastery of two languages” to “has come into contact with another language” (ibid.). Moreover, with including ‘attitudes’ (identification with bilingualism) as a factor for defining bilingualism her model can be applied to a wide range of contact situations.

As Myers-Scotton (2002: 31 ff.) states, language contact, and thus bilingualism, can evolve under various circumstances: close contact of speakers of different languages within border areas, the migration of speakers of a given language to an area with a different speech community, the acquisition of a second language (L2) in educational contexts, or the spread of an international language with its function as a lingua franca.[30] Next to these circumstances there are two other factors that can promote bilingualism and become especially interesting regarding the linguistic situation in New Zealand: first, the military invasion by a given speech community and the following colonisation of the country has led to a remarkable number of language contact situations with English having been both the language of the conquerors but also the language of the conquered people.[31] Second, the emerging awareness of ethnic identity, or growing nationalism, which is a rather recent phenomenon in the worldwide linguistic situation. The growing awareness of ethnic identity tends to be followed by an increased learning/acquisition and use of the ethnic language additional to the first language, which emerged among the Māori in New Zealand in the 1980s[32] (Myers-Scotton 2002: 31 ff.).

In summary, language contact situations and their outcomes are always determined by specific sociolinguistic factors, like the degree of bilingualism, the size of the respective speech communities, their attitudes towards each other as well as towards interference processes, the type of language acquisition, the status and functional range of the languages involved, and of course the length and intensity of contact between these languages (Görlach 1997: 137 f.). The interplay of all those factors determines the kinds of consequences of the respective language contact situation.

3.2 Consequences of language contact: contact phenomena

3.2.1 Analysing contact phenomena: the Matrix Language Frame model

Contact phenomena comprise a wide range of possible changes in language, which reach from slight changes, of which the speakers is not even aware, to rather incisive changes in the nature of a given language, with the most extreme case being language loss (Myers-Scotton 2002: 4).

An approach to analyse various contact phenomena involving bilingualism is the Matrix Language Frame model (MLF) by Myers-Scotton (2002: 8 ff.). Even if this model was first designed to explain features of code-switching (CS), many linguists “now use features of the model in offering explanations for structures in a wide variety of contact phenomena”, as Myers-Scotton (2002: 10) states. The model underlies the argument that all possibly occurring contact phenomena are based on four general principles: First, the Matrix Language Principle says that “there is always an analyzable or resolvable frame structuring the morphosyntax” (Myers-Scotton 2002: 8) of any clause[33]. This frame is then called the Matrix Language, whereas the other language (which contributes less) is called Embedded Language (Myers-Scotton 2002: 8 ff.).

The second factor is the Uniform Structure Principle, which says that the uniform abstract structure of any given constituent type and its requirements of well-formedness must be observed. More generally speaking, the morphosyntactic frame of the Matrix Language must be considered when constituents of the Embedded Language are integrated. (ibid.)

The third principle, the Asymmetry Principle for Bilingual Frames, refers to the fact that there is always a certain asymmetry in the extent to which languages participate in bilingual speech. (ibid.)

The fourth principle guiding the approach to contact phenomena is the Morpheme-Sorting Principle, which focuses on the different types of morphemes and with that on their unequal possibilities of occurrence. Content morphemes (morphemes that receive thematic roles, e.g. nouns or verbs) can be contributed by all of the participating languages, whereas system morphemes (morphemes which cannot receive thematic roles, e.g. function words and inflections) cannot be contributed by each language as they are related to constituent structure (Myers-Scotton 2002: 8 ff.).

In a further model called the 4-M model (Myers-Scotton 2002: 16 ff.) these system morphemes are broken down into three types[34]: first, the ‘early’ system morphemes[35] which are closely linked to the content morphemes (their ‘heads’) as they “further realize the conceptual content of the semantic/pragmatic feature bundles” (Myers-Scotton 2002: 18). They include articles, possessive adjectives and ‘plural’. With the close conceptual link between the head and the early system morphemes the latter are more likely to occur as items from the Embedded Language in the Matrix Language Frame than the other two types of system morphemes. These are called ‘bridge’ late system morphemes as they connect content morphemes with each other (e.g. of in the key of the car) and ‘outsider’ late morphemes, which depend on information outside their immediate environment, meaning they do not get the information from their head (e.g. third-person particle –s in She like-s, the information does not come from the head like but from the content morpheme she), (Myers-Scotton 2002: 16 ff.).

3.2.2 Types of contact phenomena

As discussed in chapter 3.1 the circumstances of language contact situations can strongly vary and thus its consequences, labelled contact phenomena, appear with the same variety. It would go beyond the scope of this paper to discuss all possible consequences of language contact. Yet, this chapter will offer a brief overview of the most obvious and common language phenomena.

The contact phenomena which embody the most incisive changes in a given language are language attrition and even more fatal (but most often subsequent) language loss, which frequently follow a preceding language shift that has taken place in a given speech community (Myers-Scotton 2002: 4). Especially indigenous languages are threatened by the total loss. Reasons can be seen in both the power of prestige languages like English, French, or Spanish, as well as in the attitudes towards the indigenous languages.

Another possibly occurring contact phenomenon is language convergence, which requires a long-standing contact of two languages that eventually results in a high degree of societal bilingualism (in the sense that both speech communities have their own language systems which gradually converge). Two quite popular phenomena that emerge from language contact situations are pidginisation and creolisation (Sebba 1997: 13ff.). The former refers to a situation where two speech communities meet without having a common language. With a high degree of bilingualism required in both languages, the speakers of both groups develop a third language that serves as a bridge between both languages and enables the different speech communities to communicate with each other. Therefore, pidgins can be understood as some kind of auxiliary languages. With the following generations acquiring the pidgin as a native language one speaks of creolisation of the pidgin. Thus, the difference between pidginisation and creolisation is that the latter has native speakers, but the former does not (Sebba 1997: 13ff.).

Another rather common phenomenon occurring in language contact situations is code-switching (CS)[36], which refers to the integration of Embedded Language morphemes into the morphosyntactic frame of the Matrix language (Myers-Scotton 2002: 153). Within CS there can be differentiated between two main types: First, single items that are integrated into the Matrix Language. Here, Embedded Language morphemes carrying conceptual messages are generally integrated. Second, CS can also occur in the form of so-called Embedded Language islands. As the name implies, full constituents, which only consist of Embedded Language morphemes, are integrated into the Matrix Language. Embedded Language islands are mainly characterized by the relation between the Embedded Language morphemes that are structural dependent within the ‘island’, (Myers-Scotton 2002: 153).

Next to the contact phenomena mentioned so far, there is another type that occurs quite frequently in language contact situations: the process of borrowing. It can be found in the history of almost every language, as “it is hard to imagine a language that has not borrowed words from some other languages” (Appel/Muysken 1987: 164). However, in some cases the process of extensive borrowing can frequently be seen as an indicator of the impending attrition and the death of a recipient language (Appel/Muysken 1987: 173). This shows quite plainly to what extent contact phenomena are linked to each other, and that they should not be seen as independent processes. However, in the following chapters the phenomenon of borrowing will be discussed more comprehensively.

3.3 Lexical transfer: borrowing

3.3.1 Defining the term ‘borrowing’

The term borrowing is used to refer to two concepts, as the following definition taken from the OED clearly demonstrates: “The action of the verb BORROW […]; taking on loan, taking at second-hand, etc.; also concr., that which is borrowed.”[37] Haugen (1989), for example, gives a definition of the term ‘borrowing’ emphasising the process of lexical transfer: “’borrowing’ is the general and traditional word used to describe the adoption into a language of a linguistic feature previously used in another” (Myers-Scotton 2002: 234). However, as mentioned above, ‘borrowing’ also refers to the borrowed items themselves. Even if Haugen emphasises that borrowing is a process, he later uses the word as a label for lexical items that have been transferred to the recipient language. As borrowings have been recognized as being mainly lexical items, they became also known under the term loanwords[38] (Myers-Scotton 2002: 234), which Campbell (2004: 63) defines as “a word which originally is not part of the vocabulary of the recipient language but was adopted from some other language and made part of the borrowing language’s vocabulary.” Thus, when referring to the borrowed items, the terms ‘borrowing’ and ‘loanword’ are interchangeable.

3.3.2 Classification of borrowed items

Although the most common items for a language to take over are found in the lexicon, almost every part of a language can be borrowed, if the respective contact situation offers the appropriate circumstances. Even if borrowing begins with lexical transfer, long-term and intensive language contact can result “in more than lexical borrowing into an L1” (Myers-Scotton 2002: 236). This means that structural borrowing can follow the lexical transfer. Thus, borrowing can refer to vocabulary as well as phonology, morphology, and syntax (Campbell 2004: 62). Linguistic elements on the level of phonology or morphology may be imported into the receiving or Matrix Language through lexical items taken over from the donor or Embedded Language. An example in the field of phonology may be seen in a French borrowing like rouge. With borrowing words like this, a new phonological rule was introduced, allowing /ž/ to occur also in world-final position (Hock 1991: 382 f.). Another quite common example for borrowing linguistic material, apart from lexical items, occurred by incorporating words from Latin or Greek (often borrowed through French): derivational morphemes like –ible or - ance were acquired in this context (Hock 1991: 382 f.).

Still, the frequency of borrowed items, or patterns within these levels of language, is not very high: borrowing on the level of vocabulary is still the most likely and easily to occur. Nevertheless, this does not apply to every group of lexical items to the same extent.

On a scale of accessibility, function words (or system morphemes) would be at the end of ‘least accessibility’ and content words (or content morphemes) at the other end. This indicates that articles, pronouns and conjunctions are less likely to be borrowed, whereas nouns, adjectives and verbs can be taken over more easily.

However, ‘least accessible’ does not mean that borrowing in those areas of the lexicon does not occur at all, as the pronouns they, them and their, which entered the English lexicon through the contact with the Scandinavians in the 10th century, clearly demonstrate. Among the content words, nouns are most easily to be borrowed. A reason for this fact may be seen in the reason for lexical borrowing itself: the need of the receiving language to extend its referential function. As “reference is established primarily through nouns” (Appel/Muysken 1987: 171), nouns are more frequently borrowed than any other lexical items. However, within the word group of nouns another differentiation must be taken into account: items of core vocabulary (words distinctive to human life and society, e.g. numbers or words like fire or sun) are less accessible to borrowing than non-core vocabulary (terms referring to more specific features of a culture or group, e.g. hamburger or lawnmower), (Appel/Muysken 1987: 165; Hudson 1998: 59). Thus, nouns that are most likely to be borrowed are those which carry a concept requiring high mental and linguistic abstraction. An example of such a potential borrowing may be the word nation (Hock 1991: 384).

In summary, borrowing predominantly refers to the lexical dimension of language, with nouns being the lexical items that are borrowed most often.

3.3.3 Assimilation processes

An important issue that must be considered when talking about the process of borrowing is the (more or less great) divergence of linguistic structures of different languages. It should be taken into account that the borrowing of certain lexical items may strongly vary in the extent of assimilation.

Hock (1991: 408) argues that there are two routines that can be observed when words are taken over from another language: adoption vs. adaption. Adoption involves the importation of a new word together with its foreign phonology and morphology. Adaption, on the other hand, refers to the borrowing of a word with the attempt to integrate the new item into the linguistic structures of the recipient language. Loan-translations (also calques) are the most extreme type of borrowing emerging in this process. Here, only the meaning of a foreign word is imported (semantic borrowing), and the new concept is represented by native forms. In other words, the elements of the foreign word are directly translated into the recipient language. A very common example of this type of borrowing is the expression superman deriving from the German word Übermensch. (Hock 1991: 408; Yule 1996: 65)

However, the procedures of adoption and adaption must be seen as the two extreme ends of a continuum, which offers several intermediate stages concerning the nativization of borrowings (Campbell 2004: 66). An example of these shades is the common phenomenon of phoneme substitution. This usually occurs when the borrowed word contains phonemes that do not exist in the linguistic system of the recipient language. In this case, the foreign sounds are substituted by their nearest phonetic equivalent (ibid.).

Another example in the field of phonetic assimilation is the accommodation of foreign phonological patterns (ibid.). This happens through deletion, addition, or recombination of different sounds. All in all, the degree of assimilation is predominantly determined by both the intensity and the duration of the contact between the donor and the recipient language. Close, intimate linguistic contact can even lead to the borrowing of phonological features of the donor language (Campbell 2004: 66). Other factors are the speakers’ command of the new sounds and the degree of desire to keep both language systems apart.

In cases of high acceptance of the loanword as a part of the recipient language lexicon, words are usually integrated into the linguistic structure of this language. This means that noun inflexions or tenses of verbs are formed according to the linguistic rules of the borrowing language (Clyne 1997: 312).

In summary, assimilation processes can strongly vary, depending on a number of extra- as well as intralinguistic factors. Especially regarding borrowings that are just adopted and maintain their foreign form, it becomes clear that it is always a matter of degree whether a borrowed word is really considered to be an incorporated lexical item of the recipient language or not.[39]


[1] This paper follows the convention of indicating vowel length with macrons in words of Māori origin, which is supported by the authorative Māori Language Commission.

[2] For a detailed discussion and theories on the development of NZE see also Gordon et al. (2004)

[3] The Australian Colonies Government Act granted nearly unrestricted autonomy for the colonies New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia


[5] Received Pronunciation, also referred to as ‘Oxford English’ or ‘BBC English’ (Yallop 1999: 31)

[6] The significance of RP within NZE is extensively examined in Bayard(1996) Social constraints on the phonology of New Zealand English. (see References)

[7] The Brown Corpus of written American English (1961), the Lancaster-Oslo-Bergen Corpus of written British English and the Macquarie Corpus of written Australian English (1986)

[8] For more information and access to the corpora see

[9] See Bennet (1943) and Turner (1970)

[10] See for example Görlach (1995:146) who says that there are no remarkable differences in the lexicons of NZE and AusE.


[12] For more examples see Gordon/Deverson (1998: 80)

[13] See also Chapter 6

[14] Batterham (2000) comprehensively discusses this feature in The apparent merger of the front centric diphthongs –ear and air- in New Zealand English. (see references)

[15] For more detailed information on NZE pronunciation see Bauer (1994: 388 ff.)

[16] Bauer (2000: 50) suggests that the sense of this term should be broadened including speakers from Northern Ireland as well

[17] Corresponding to the three kinds of AusE [see also Yallop(1999: 32 f.)]

[18] See also Chapter 4.3.1

[19] L2 is an abbreviation for the term ‘second language’.

[20] See also Chapter 4.4.1

[21] For more information on the Māori language see Chapter 2.3

[22] This differentiation was first proposed by Jack C. Richards in 1970 (Holmes 1997: 70).


[24] The state of the Māori language and language revitalisation initiatives will be further discussed in Chapter 4.4.1

[25] See for example Māori aroha and Hawaiian aloha, which both mean ‘love’.

[26] See Chapter

[27] Bilingualism refers to the use of two or more languages; with more than two languages involved one also speaks of ‘multilingualism’.

[28] For her detailed discussion on this topic see Skutnabb-Kangas, T.(1984): Bilingualism or Not. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

[29] See Appendix p. 82, Table 1

[30] A lingua franca is a language which serves as a medium of intercourse between speakers of different languages.

[31] This applies to the linguistic situation in England after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

[32] See Chapter 4.4.1

[33] The term C lause is here used for what Myers-Scotton more specifically refers to as ‘CP’ – the “projection of complementizers” (Myers-Scotton 2002: 54).

[34] See also Myers-Scotton (2002: 75)

[35] These morphemes are called ‚early’ because of their early salience.

[36] Hoffmann (1997: 110) and other linguists distinguish between CS and code-mixing with the former referring to a change of language occurring across sentences and the latter referring to the integration of single lexical items within a sentence. However, in this essay I will follow Myers-Scotton’s use of the term CS which also refers to a change of language within a phrase or sentence (Myers-Scotton 2002: 3).


[38] These are also referred to as loans.

[39] The problem will be further discussed in Chapter 3.3.5.

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Use and acceptance of Maori borrowings in New Zealand English
Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald  (Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik)
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Lysann Hofmann (Author), 2006, Use and acceptance of Maori borrowings in New Zealand English, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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