Largest ever study of te reo Māori

By Jessica Tyson

The largest study ever of the Māori language is about to be undertaken by Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

Researchers will analyse data extracted from the internationally recognised longitudinal study Growing Up In New Zealand.

Professor Te Kani Kingi from the wānanga says, "This is by far the largest and most sophisticated study ever of Māori language use and is perhaps the most detailed study of any indigenous language.”

He says the scope of the statistical research will provide a unique opportunity to accurately determine the state of te reo Māori.

“The study is longitudinal, and is therefore an incredibly powerful resource from which to develop effective policies for Māori language retention and revitalisation.

“The scale, breadth and depth of the study means we can identify the primary stressors and challenges for Māori language retention, and also hypothesise as to what solutions might be to promote language use and development.”

Conclusions will be based “not on theory or speculation but on careful examination of detailed statistical data,” he says.

The Growing Up In New Zealand study of 7,000 children collects detailed information about individuals and their families from before birth and into the children's adulthood.

The study includes approximately 1700 children who identify primarily as Māori (24 per cent), 1200 Pacific (21 per cent), 1000 (16 per cent) Asian, and 66 per cent who identify as European or other. 

Nearly half of all the children identify with more than one ethnic group.

The study aims to provide comprehensive information about what shapes children's development and how interventions might be targeted to give every child the best start in life, Kingi says.

The project is expected to be completed by the middle of next year and will be managed by Hannah Simmonds of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.