Grammar of the New Zealand Language
Is a sound of some difficulty. There is no sound that we are aware of in the English language that exactly corresponds to it. Low, sow, mow, &c., may be made to resemble it, by pronouncing them slowly, and letting the sound die away into u.
Most foreigners are apt to pronounce it as a simple o. The first syllable of koutou is one of very difficult pronunciation. page 7 Without great care it will be variously pronounced, as if koitou kotou, or kutu.
By not attending to these distinctions the speaker will often lose the benefit of a good thought. A speaker, guarding his hearers against spiritual temptations, borrowed his illustration from a poukaka (the perch for the parrot by which it is caught,) telling them that Satan often presents ponkakas to attract them to ruin; unfortunately, however, instead of poukaka he used pokaka, a squall of wind and rain, and only expressed his point by exciting their risibility.
The doubtful class of dipthongs are mau, (as in mau, for thee, tau, thy,) ai, (as in maia, brave) ea, eo, eu, io, iu,
On these we do not wish at present to make many observations. We believe that there is a considerable difference amongst Maori speakers respecting them. Our own idea is, that there may be a few occasions on which some might be considered dipthongs; and that those occasions are, the position of the syllable, whether at the end of the word, or elsewhere, as also whether it come under the influence of the accent.
We cannot dismiss this subject without mentioning two particulars, very necessary to be remembered by all who wish to attain to an accurate pronunciation of Maori. First, as it is in English, every sentence is to be pronounced as if one word. 2. Homogeneous vowels will, when they meet almost always run into a dipthong.
The following sentence, koia i whiriwhiria ai e ia to ratou uri, would be thus pronounced by a native, koiai-whiri-whiriai-eia-to-ratouri. Koia ia i riri ai would run, koiai-aiririai.
This subject of homogeneous vowels coalescing into dipthongs. is one which has not received the attention it merits.