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First Lessons in Maori

I. On Reading

page 5

I. On Reading.

§ 1. The Alphabet consists of the following fifteen letters:—

Form. Name. Sound.
A a a păpā
E e e send, fête,
H h ha
I i i hit, machine,
K k ka
M m ma
N n na
Ng ng nga singing
O o o obey, pole
P p pa
R r ra
T t ta
U u u put, ruby
W w wa
Wh wh wha

The vowels in the names of the letters are sounded as shown above.

§ 2. Note.

—The Maori alphabet is very restricted. It will be noticed that the voiced consonants b, d, g, are wanting, also the voiced and voiceless pairs, v, f, and z, s, page 6 and the liquid, l. The only consonants are the voiceless p, t, k, the voiced and voiceless pair, w, wh, the three nasals, m, n, ng, the liquid r and the aspirate h. These ten consonants with the five vowels permit the formation of fifty-five open syllables, but four of these, wo, wu, who, whu, do not occur in any genuine Maori word, leaving only fifty-one possible syllables in the language.

§ 3. Pronunciation.

—In pronouncing the vowels great care should be taken that in each case the long vowel be formed by a simple prolongation of the pure sound of the short vowel without any gliding, as so often in English, into another vowel. Thus ō must not have any trace of u introduced into it, nor ē any trace of i.

Wh is not a compound of w and h, but represents the single voiceless consonant corresponding with w, and is pronounced by emitting the breath sharply between the lips. It is a mistake to assimilate the sound to that of f in English, though this has become fashionable in recent years with some of the younger Maoris.

Ng (also a single consonant), as used in Maori to begin a syllable, is found difficult by some people; but the difficulty may soon be overcome by bearing in mind that the position of the organs of speech is the same for this letter as for g and k, to which it stands in the same relation that m does to b and p, and n to d and t. Pronounce the three letters successively with the Maori vowel a, thus: ka, ga, nga, and practise this till the letter is mastered.

Each vowel has but one sound, but may vary in length. When two stand together in a word they do not, strictly speaking, form a diphthong, but each should be pronounced, the first of the two generally more strongly than the other. The doubling of a vowel amounts simply to a lengthening of it.

page 7

The consonants always stand singly, and every syllable is open, that is ends with a vowel, and every letter in a word is pronounced.

Accent.—As a general rule, accentuate the first syllable; but in words beginning with whaka accentuate the third. When a word is formed by doubling the last two syllables of a three-syllable word, the first syllable will invariably be long, and there will be a secondary accent on the second and fourth syllables: as āni'wani'wa.

Caution.—Be careful always to give each vowel its own sound, and so to avoid confusion between ae and ai, as in the words waewae and wai; between e and ei, as in the words he and hei; between ao and au, as in the words tao and tau; between o and ou, as in the words koukou and koko; between ou and u, as in the words koutou and kutu.