Research shows more Māori 'loan words' being used

By Regan Paranihi

University of Waikato postgraduate student, Katie Levendis, has been tracking Māori loan words in newspapers throughout the North Island for the past 10 years.  She has found that the average use of loan words in newspapers has risen to 35 per 1,000 words.

Loan words are Māori words used in New Zealand English.  Earlier research from between 2001 and 2006 saw Māori loan words at about 6 per 1000 words.

The most frequently used words were, unsurprisingly, 'Māori' and 'te reo', with the rest of the top ten in order: iwi, reo (no preceding 'te'), whānau, marae, kapa haka, Pākehā, Kiwi, and kia ora.

Newspaper analysis shows the percentage of Māori loan words used generally relates to the size of the Māori population in the area of the paper's target audience.

She also found that The Daily Post in Rotorua are actively engaged in promoting the language as they used the most loan words.

'Maori Language Week' increased slightly over the 10 year period, but more notably, 'te wiki o te reo Maori' had a clear and significant increase in use.

Levendis' supervisor, Dr Andreea Calude says, "Over the decade, it appears we are using more Māori loan words, and translating fewer of them.  The perception is that the average New Zealander knows more Māori words."

Associate Professor Hēmi Whaanga from the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies says the research reflects the growing awareness and resurgence of interest in te reo Māori across many sectors of Aotearoa.

 "This momentum echoes the government's goal of 1 million speakers of basic te reo by 2040, the current debate circulating on compulsory te reo Māori in schools, developing quality te reo teachers and the place of Pākehā in the future of the language. "