Maori is one of the three official languages of New Zealand along with English and New Zealand Sign Language. This language is spoken by many of the indigenous people of New Zealand and is considered to be one of the Eastern Polynesian languages closely related to the Hawaiian-Tahitian languages.
As with many languages, Maori has its dialects and special phonetics. Although Maori is spoken by the indigenous people of New Zealand, its classification as an official language allows it to be used on a more frequent basis in a very public manner. If you are traveling to New Zealand it will be very advantageous to have a basic understanding of the language.
An old legend states that the native language came to New Zealand from Hawaiki, which is a mythical land that many of the Polynesian people use as the base of their culture. Historians believe that the Maori language was introduced to the region that is presently New Zealand in 1280 AD via voyagers from the Southern Cook Islands. It is believed that the language was able to flourish without impediment because of the seclusion of the area until the 19th century.
The Maori language remained the dominant language in New Zealand until the English language began to become more commonly used in the 1860s. With the influx of English speaking missionaries, settlers and other individuals English rapidly became the dominant language.
Up until World War II most of the native people of New Zealand spoke Maori in their homes. Eventually, even the use of Maori declined as more individuals in the government begin to speak the language less. By the 1980s English had become the dominant language and the use of the Maori language was so sparse that special action was taken to help reintroduce the language to the native people for fear that the native Maori language was being phased out by English.
In the 1980s the New Zealand government instituted the Kohanga Reo movement, which was a targeted effort geared towards babies to surround them in Maori language in culture from infancy throughout their schooling in order to reestablish the Maori language.
When learning the maori language and meanings there are a number of elements that must be learned. The Maori language consists of an alphabet that has twenty letters. Two of the letters are digraphs which are two letters that are placed together to make a sound.
The Maori language went through a number of changes and disputes, particularly when it came to establishing vowel length, consonants and the use of syllables. To create order within the Maori language, in 1987 the Maori Language Act was established by the Maori Language Commission in order to act as the leading authority on the spelling and the correct usage of the language. To grasp this language it is important to understand that Maori language is based on phrases rather than on a word. Likewise, this language uses many particles such as pronouns, particles related to position of timing, particles for verbs and particles which mark possessiveness.
If you are traveling to New Zealand, you will find that most of the people are fluent in English so you may not have to know the Maori language. However, when visiting another country, it is always best to be familiar with the native tongue. It shows that you are taking effort to become immersed in the local culture. This holds true to the any culture including those that have being infiltrated with English as with the Maori language. In order to embrace the Maori language and meanings while visiting New Zealand the following is a list of some basic terms that are often used by the natives.