Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Grammar of the New Zealand Language

Preface — To first edition

page break

To first edition.

Independently of minute and numerous subdivisions, it may, perhaps, be correct to state that there are spoken in this the northern island seven leading dialects, each more or less distinguished from the other —viz., 1st, the Rarawa, or that spoken to the northward of Kaitaia; 2nd, the Ngapuhi, or that spoken in that portion of the island as far south of Kaitaia as Point Rodney on the eastern coast, and Kaipara on the western; 3rd, the Waikato, or that spoken in the district lying between Point Rodney and Tauranga on the east, and Kaipara and Mokau on the west; 4th, that spoken in the Bay of Plenty; 5th, the dialect of the East Cape and its neighbourhood, in which, perhaps, may be included that of Rotorua, though in these two places many little differences might be detected; 6th, that spoken in the line of coast between Port Nicholson and page VI Wanganui, though here, also, at least four distinct branches might be traced; 7th, and last, that spoken between Wanganui and Mokau. The dialect of Taupo may be, perhaps, considered a mixture of those of Rotorua and Waikato.

All these may be stated to bear to each other a remarkable radical affinity. Many words, it is true, may be found in one which are unknown in another; but the grammar of any will give a great insight into the texture of all.

The Waikato dialect is very generally known throughout the larger portion of the island. It has deeply tinctured that of Taupo, is well known at Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty, and has been carried to the summits of Taranaki by the multitudes whom its fierce warriors once dragged from thence in slavery, and whose chains have been since snapped by the power of the Gospel. Ngapuhi to the northward are well acquainted with it, from the number of slaves who had been fetched from thence by the warrior Hongi; and a little page VII before his time it was carried to the neighbourhood of Port Nicholson by two large and distinct migrations—one by Ngatitoa, who were the original possessors of Kawhia, another by Ngatiraukawa, who formerly occupied Maungatautari, and as far as Taupo.

The four tribes also who now occupy the banks of the Thames resided, formerly, for a very long period, in Waikato, and, being sprung from the same stock, speak a language so similar that a critical ear can scarcely tell the difference between the dialects of the two people.*

The origin of this people,—what part of this island was first occupied,—whether it was not colonized by different migrations from different islands,—are points as yet buried in darkness.

That it was not occupied by merely one migration has ever been the opinion of

* Marutuahu, from Kawhia, is the great progenitor of the Thames tribes, and his name is often used to designate that people. Kawhia, we may add, is the place at which, according to the accounts of the people of Waikato, Taranaki, as well as those of Ngatiruanui, the early immigrants landed.

page VIII the author since he heard of the different condition and habits of the people of the East Cape and those of Waikato. A surrey of the different dialects will confirm the conjecture, and nowhere can we get a better illustration than at Taupo. For that magnificent lake, in the centre of the island, and the point of meeting for two parties, as they approach from either coast, presents also a remarkable diversity in the languages spoken on the eastern and western banks. On the eastern, the dialect corresponds closely with that of Rotorua, from which it is distant about a four days' journey; on the north-western, which is occupied by a remnant left by the Ngatiraukawa in their great migration to the south ward, the dialect is remarkably similar to that spoken in Waikato.*
The points of similarity between the fundamental principles of the Hebrew language and those of Maori have been

* These remarks might also be extended to Rotorua lakes, on the north-western extremity also of which are residing another remnant of Ngatirankawa, whose dialect is, as far as the author recollects, different from that spoken by Ngatiwakaane.

page IX occasionally noticed: not, however, because the author entertains any opinion that the two languages can claim any direct relationship to each other. Upon this only would he insist, in reply to those who would bind him down to the model of some of the European grammars, that Maori, like Hebrew, is altogether different from those languages in structure; that every subject of scientific inquiry must have rules and an arrangement suited to its nature; and that, as it would be absurd to construct the English on the basis of the Latin, so would it be more out of course to think of finding in Maori declensions, conjugations, modes of comparison, &c., &c., as accurately defined, or conducted on the same principles, as those of languages so polished, and so adapted for expressing, as well the minutest varieties in thought, as the tenderest emotions of the feelings.

And here the author would acknowledge his obligations to Professor Lee for his theory of the Hebrew tenses. On no page X other hypothesis can a satisfactory solution be given of the Maori tense.

The student is requested to notice that the remarks that are more suited to a beginner are printed in large type, and that matters which are of less importance to him are contained in the smaller. It will be, perhaps, most advisable for him to omit the perusal of the latter until he has mastered the former.

Waikato Heads,
February, 1842.