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Grammar of the New Zealand Language

Chapter XIII. — Of the Syntax. — Preliminary Remarks

page 102

Chapter XIII.
Of the Syntax.
Preliminary Remarks.

Before we proceed to the consideration of the Syntax of Maori, it will be necessary 1st. to explain some terms which we shall be obliged to employ, and 2ndly, to make a few remarks on the geneal features of Maori sentences. Some further remarks on this subject, we shall reserve till we come to treat on the verbs.

The subject of a proposition is that concerning which anything is affirmed or denied. The predcate is that which is so affirmed or denied of the subject. Thus, in the follwing sentence, Kau mate a Hone, John has died, Hone is the subject, and mate is the predicate.

Note.—We can scarcely recognize the verbal particles as copulas. We believe that their exclusive use is, to denote time.

Propositions, or sentences, we diveided (page 37) into simple and comound. Another division is here necessary; viz., into complex and incomplex. An incomplex proposition is that whose subject and predicate are simple terms; e. g., He hoiho tenei, this is a horse.

page 103

A complex proposition is that which contains some qualifying, or otherwise modifying, term in connexion with either subject or predicate; e. g., I mate a Hone hi reira. Ki reira, here, qualifies the predicate mate. He tokomaha nga Pakeha i Akarana, many are the foreigners in Auckland. Nga Pakeha i Akarana is the subject and tokomaha the predicate.

He aroha no te Atua i ora ai tatou. This placed in due order, is “I ora ai tatou, he aroha no te Atua,” we having been saved was a love of God. Here, I ora ai tatou is the subject.

Ko tou utu tena mo to hanganga i te whare? Is that your payment for your having built the house? Here, we conceive, ko tou utu mo to hanganga i te whare is the subject, and tena the predicate.

In examining the nature of Maori propositions, the student will soon notice that they are characterized by a remarkable brevity and abruptnes, as well as by the frequent occurrence of ellipses. As a New Zealander is generally unequal to a train of consecutive thought, so also is his language inadequate to exhibit with accuracy the various processes of the civilized intellect, such as comparing, abstracting, &c., or indeed any ideas beyond the simple and monotonous details of his daily life. It is, if we may so speak, an animated sketching, intended for general effect, the more delicate lines being but faintly touched.

The student has already seen that Maori is defective in particles of illation, comparison, and copulation. The want of a verb substantive, which is so useful as a copula in other languages, will often, where accuracy is desired, cause both clumsiness and obscurity of construction.

The process by which a New Zealander constructs his sentences, is very similar to that of a child who is just beginning to speak. For example: if the latter wishes to express, “Is that a horse?” “Give me some bread,” he will, most probably, say “a horse that?” “me bread.” He has the ideas of himself and bread, and, by pronouncing the one in immediate succession after the other, attempts to convey the idea of their mutual connexion. So also will Maori, when it wishes to express the dependence of two or more ideas on each other, place them in close connexion, as distinct existences, and leave the hearer to deduce their in tended relations. From hence it may, a priori, be collected. 1st. That Maori inclines to the substantive form. 2ndly, That it page 104 will have a peculiar tendency to the indicative mode of statement. 3rdly. That it delights in short sentences. 4thly. That it will often, in consequence of the frequent occurrence of ellipses, present constructions which will appear strange to the student of only polished languages, and even occasionally seem to defy analysis. 5thly, That the clauses of the sentence, will, like its words, be often thrown together without any connecting particles, and that we shall often notice in their construction a frequent occurrence of epanorthosis.

On some of these heads we shall have to remark hereafter. The last-mentioned feature is, however, of such importance in the investigation of some of the difficult points of Maori, that we must beg the student's leave to bring it here prominently before his notice.

Epanorthosis is a figure of frequent occurrence in all languages, but particularly in those of the East. It is “the qualifying a former clause by the addition of another,”* e. g., Ka tae te hohoro o ta tatou kai, te pau! what great haste our food has made; (I mean) the being consumed. Here te pau, is a clause qualifying the preceding; e rua tahi enei, he roa kau, there are two here, nothing but long; ringihia mai, kia nohinohi, pour me out some, let it be little, (i.e., pour me out a little); e rite tahi ana ia kia koe, te ahua, he is like you, (I mean,) the countenance; no reira a Ngatihau i tino mau ai, te karakia ai, that was the cause why Ngatihau were quite established, (I mean,) the not adopting Christianity. I riri au kia ia, kihai nei i whakaaro, I was angry with him, (I mean),) he did not exercise thought in that matter. Ko te tangata tenei, nana nga kakano, this is the man, his are the seeds; (i.e., this is the person whose are, &c.) He aha tau e mea, what is yours (actively) (I mean,) are doing? i. e., what are you doing? Haere ana Hone, me tana hoiho. Ka puta pea tena ki raro, e tihore ana. So John started and his horse. He has perhaps reached to the northward, (I mean,) is page 105 peeling, (i. e., going along at a peeling, or rapid rate).

6thly. The student may be prepared to find the defect of the verb substantive supplied in various ways in Maori—by the article, the pronoun, the preposition, the adverb, and the verbal particles. Instances of ellipsis he will find in almost every page —ellipsis of the verb, of the noun, of the pronoun, &c., and, particularly, in our illustration of the preposition ki.

As distinctions between gender, number, case, and person, are very rare in Maori, and as, moreover, a main business of syntax consists in the adjusting of their several claims, we may hope that our work here will be neither complicated, nor extended.

* “Est sui ipsiui quasi revocatio, qua id, quod dictum est, e vestigle. cortigitur.”—Glass. edit Dathe, page 1350.