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Grammar of the New Zealand Language

Of the Sounds of the Vowels

Of the Sounds of the Vowels.


Has three sounds; the slender, somewhat broader' and the full broad sound.


The slender, as in hat, pat


The somewhat broader; as in mar, far, father.


The full broad; as in wall, hall, &c.

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The following is a list of words classified under these heads:
patu, to strike.patu, partition of a house
mătua, a father.mātua. fathers.whana, to kick.
mărama, the moon.mārama, tight.wahi, a place.
taki, to drag a canoe in water.taki, take from the fire.whaki, to confess.
matenga, death.matenga, headware, a plebeian.
tăringa, ear.tāringa, waiting for.
păkaru, broken.pākarua. v. p. broken
pakeke, hard.pakeke, to creek.
tăngata, a man.tāngata, men.
tahu. to burn.tahuhu, a ridgepole.whare, a house.

The second and third head differ but little from each, other, and it sometimes may be difficult to decide under which of the two the sound should be classed.

The reader is requested to notice that the distinctions above made, are not founded so much on the length of the sound, as on the differences of the sounds themselves. If the length of the sound be considered, other classes, (at least two,) might easily be established; but the learner would, we fear, be more perplexed than benefitted by the addition.

The speaker should remember that in some compound words the last syllable of the first word, if it end in a, is pronounced strong; e g.

Patungā-poaka; place where pigs are killed. Mahingā-kai; a cultivation; Matā-pu; the lead of a gun, a bullet; Ta te tutuā tu; the plebeian's manners.

Note.—There are exceptions to this rule which it would be well for the student of observation to notice.

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In pronouncing such words as kata, mata, tata, the speaker must be careful not to slur over the first a, as if it were keta, meta, &c. It should be pronounced clearly and distinctly.


Is pronounced as a in bate, hate, &c., only not quite so slow, or so broad. Perhaps the final e in the French words café, felicité, would be a closer resemblance; e.g., koe, rea, re, kete, mate, tenei, rere

(2.) As e in poetical, there; e.g, tena, renga-renga, kete, rere.

Few sounds in Maori are more frequently mis-pronounced by foreigners than e. Tohe, ngare, kumea, hoea mai te waka, te reinga, te rangi. rewera, korero, have been all so carelessly pronounced as to sound to the native ear as if spelt, tohi, ngari, kumia, hoia mai ti waka, to reinga, to rangi, Rewara, kororo. The reader should also be careful not to give e the dipthongal sound of ei; as in ne the interrogative particle, &c.


I is pronounced like the French i; as ee in sleep, green, &c.; when distinctly and fully pronounced it imparts much melodiousness to the sentence; e.g. ariki, kīki, to chatter, &c.

In the following it has a shorter sound: kĭki, crowded; mĭti, tĭti, &c.

N. B —The speaker should be careful not to confound i with the Maori e; as in such words as wakatoi, hoi, &c.


Has a long and a short sound, a long; as toto, to drag.

A short; as toto, blood.

N. B.—We have no sound in Maori to correspond to the o in not, hot, pot, &c.

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This sound is also uniform in kind, and always corresponds to oo in book, &c. It sometimes, however, experiences a more quick, sometimes a more slow pronunciation.

The following table exhibits two variations beginning with the shorter:—
t[gap — reason: unclear]uri, a knee.tūtū, disobedient.
t[gap — reason: unclear]ut[gap — reason: unclear]u, same as tupakihi of Ngapuhi.tūtū (manu), a birdstand.
k[gap — reason: unclear]uk[gap — reason: unclear]u, a shell.kūkū, a pigeon
k[gap — reason: unclear]uhu.tūtūa.
[gap — reason: unclear]utŭ, to pay.ūtu, to draw water.

In pronouncing u the speaker will have to guard against the error of those who prefix the aspirate when no aspirte is admissible. Accoridng to them u, utu, &c., are pronounced as if spelt hu, hutu.

He will also have to beware of the more common and stubbora error of giving u the dipthongal sound of u in cube, tube, mute, &c.—Tonu, ketu, tonutia, are, in this way, pronounced as if spelt toniu, toniutia, ketiu.

U, again, is sometimes, by careless speakers, confounded with o, and vice versa. Thus ihu, nose; niho, tooth; have been erroneously pronounced as if spelt iho, nihu