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Grammar of the New Zealand Language

Chapter XII. — Of the Interjections

page 99

Chapter XII.
Of the Interjections.

Maori abounds in interjections. The following are the most common. It will be seen in this part of speech that there is a considerable variation in the different tribes.


  • For calling to another person near at hand, Ou! Ou!

  • For reply to recall, O, (in a falsetto tone).

  • For drawing attention to statements, things &c., &c.
    • Inana! irara! ira! (Rotorua).

    • Aiaiai! (Taranaki).

    • Rere! Ere! nene! re! (Waikato).

    • Nana! (Ngapuhi).

  • For exciting attention, rara! (Waikato).

  • Disapprobatory, E, e! He! hi! ha! aeha! arara. Ata! (Ngapuhi) Ae!

Exclamations made when it has been found that the speaker was correct, (corresponding to ah, you see! yes, to be sure, &c.) Na ra nei? Arara! haka! (Waikato,) aheiha (Ngapuhi,) ae ra hoki. That expressive of gratification at some misfortune having befallen another; Kaitoa!

  • Of salutation to visitors, Haere mai, haere mai! Tauti mai, (Waikato). Nau mai, (Rotorua).

    page 100
  • Salutation of one meeting another, Tena ra ko koe! or, Tena koe! (lit. that is you).

  • In reply to a salutation, Ko koe ra! It is you!

  • Of farewell, Hei konei, stop! Haere, go! E noho! ne? Remain! Will you?

  • Of wonder, Aue! Eue! (Waikato) Taukiri e! A! Ho inati! (Waikato).

Besides these there are phrases which are often used as Interjections; e.g.,

  • Ka tae taku matua, &c.! Bravo, my father, &c., corresponding to our thank you.

  • Ka tae he mamahi mau! what heavy work for you.

  • Tauhou ki a Hone! (lit. stranger to John!) Oh yes, Mr. John.

  • Ka mahi a Hone, idem.

Maori delights in interjectional and ironical sentences, and the student who desires to be a good speaker should pay them much attention, and study also to catch the tone of voice, &c.

Some, who have not noticed them, have turned an exclamation into a question, and thus altered the meaning of the sentence. “How many pigs of John have better food than I!” we have heard thus translated, E hia ranei nga poaka a Hone he pai ke ta ratou kai i taku, &c.? The translation here obviously differs from the original. It should have been, Ano te tini, or tini noa iho, or ka tae te tini, or kia tini, na, (or ano) te tini, or he tini nga poaka, &c.

And here we may observe that, in translating from another tongue into Maori, it would be perverting all use of language to render by merely a verbal correspondence, without any regard to the meaning; and that, in these idiomatic phrases, it would be best, unless we wish to establish the maxim of the French statesman,* “that language was merely intended to page 101 conceal our feelings,” to make our author employ those corresponding expressions in Maori which he would most probably have used had he been speaking in that language.

We may observe, in conclusion, that Maori has no good form for such optative interjections as would that, &c. There is, it is true, a kind of substitute; but it cannot be expressed by our present alphabet. It is formed by a sharp smack of the tongue against the palate, and na pronounced after it. The best form, for the present, is, perhaps, me i, with a peculiar tone of voice; e.g., Me i kite ahau ia ia! If I had but seen him! or would that I had, &c.

* The Abbe Talleyrand.