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MAORI ENGLISH. A widely used term for a variety of NEW ZEALAND ENGLISH. Its features, however, remain poorly defined and to the extent that the variety is neither spoken by all Maoris nor exclusively by Maoris the label is misleading. It is spoken by Pake-has (whites) in areas where there are many Maoris or as a means of showing solidarity with them. MAORI English is primarily identifiable through voice quality and a greater tendency towards syllable timing than is normal in Pakeha English (the usage of white New Zealanders). Certain vowel qualities appear to differ from those in standard NZE, but reliable descriptions are not yet available. In a survey of Maori school children by Richard A. Benton in 1963–4, it was found that they sometimes made no distinction between /ð/ and /d/, /ɵ/ and /t/, /s/ and /z/, /k/ and /g/, that /t/ and /d/ were sometimes interchanged, and that /ŋ/ was replaced by /n/. The use of the high-rise terminal intonation pattern for statements was also commented on. It is not clear to what extent these are maturational ‘problems’ and, if not, to what extent they also beset Pakehas. The high-rise terminal is today widespread among Pakehas, including the middle class, and variation between /ŋ/ and /n/ is a notorious shibboleth throughout the English-speaking world.

Similar problems arise in interpreting data on the grammar of Maori English. The above study mentions constructions such as I went down the henhouse, Me and Bill went there, He learned me to do it, all common non-standard forms in English elsewhere. It also mentions constructions that may be more representative of Maori English: I went by my Auntie's; Who's your name?; To me, the ball. Recent research shows some grammatical differences between Maori and Pakeha speakers, such as the omission of have before some past participles and before got to. The use of the tag question eh? is stereotypical, but also occurs in other varieties of NZE and elsewhere. Typical vocabulary items include both Maori and non-Maori words: kai food, fellers /ˈfʌləz/ people, males (often in the vocative you fellers). There is another variety, mainly written and not usually called Maori English, in which far more Maori vocabulary is used. In it, the elements are neither italicized nor glossed: ‘This indeed may be the nub from which this book gains perspective—that even after 145 years of Pakeha terms of reference, ka tu tonu the Maori. And so they should remain as yet to be consulted tangata whenua. Whether this book bears fruit will depend on a response to the kaupapa laid down on marae throughout Aotearoa at the feet of the manuhiri’ ( Philip Whaanga, New Zealand Listener, 5 Apr. 1986). The average Pakeha New Zealander will not understand enough Maori to know precisely what is being said here. It is not clear whether the variety reflects CODE-SWITCHING in Maori speech or is a literary style that may provide a model for spoken usage. In either case, it seems to be a new development and may mean that a more prestigious kind of Maori English will soon emerge. See NEW ZEALAND ENGLISH).