Maori loanwords in NZ English are less about meaning, more about identity | 5/31/2018 | Staff
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Ask the average Kiwi on the street about Māori words in New Zealand English, and most will tell you that more and more are being used in everyday language.

This increase in borrowing goes against observations in other language examples. Typically, most borrowing tends to happen from the dominant language to the minority or indigenous language. However, it is quite astounding to find a situation where the words of an endangered language (Māori) are productively adopted by a linguistic giant (English), and perhaps equally surprising to find the trend remains positively increasing more than two centuries after initial contact.

Rub - Māori - Words - English - Words

But here is the rub: while we dip into Māori vocabulary to bring new words into English as well as using existing words more frequently, this trend is not homogenous across speakers (and writers), nor across topics.

On the one hand, we have loanword innovators who borrow words more than others. Our research shows that Māori women in particular are contributing to this language innovation. But we also have topics that seem to be loanword attractors—usually topics related to Māori people or culture, such as Matariki (the star cluster Pleiades, whose appearance in the morning sky is celebrated as Māori new year), Māori Language Week, or kapa haka performances.

Parameters - Frequency - Use - Part - Work

Teasing these parameters apart from the overall frequency of use was a crucial part of our work to test the validity of the hypothesised increase in loanwords. We focused on data that hold the topic constant, so we could see whether an increase could still be gleaned over time.

We combed through newspaper articles related to Māori Language Week over a period of 10 years and found the loanwords used are indeed more frequent today than they have been in the past.

Māori - Words - Stick - Linguists - Change

But will these Māori words stick? Linguists who study lexical change have noted that in certain...
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