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The Coming of the Maori

Language Affinities

Language Affinities

Elsdon Best (14, pp. 437, 438) collected 11 words that were attributed by Maori traditions to the pre-Toi people, but he recognized the fact that any distinctive sounds would naturally be "Maorified" and any significance as to Melanesian relationship would be destroyed. Williams (107, p. 420) could locate only one of these Maruiwi words, with a slight modification of meaning, in the Moriori dialect.

As the Moriori traditionally were held to have left New Zealand for the Chatham Islands before the settlers from Hawaiki arrived in 1350, a study of their speech offered another avenue of search for Melanesian relationship. Williams (107) after a study of the vocabulary collected by Shand, concluded that Moriori could not be described correctly as a subdialect of Maori but that "It has as much right to be considered independent as any of the known dialects of the Polynesian language." He disposed of the sibilant sound in the dialect by showing that it was by tongue and breath control over vowels following the established consonants h, k, and t and that it was not a true s or ch sound. As similar developments have occurred in other Polynesian dialects, these sounds may be disregarded as evidence of Melanesian relationship. Though Williams enunciated no theory of Moriori origin, his study showed that the Moriori dialect has more affinity with the dialects of eastern Polynesia than with the west of recorded tradition. With regard to the Maori dialect, my own practical experience in the field is that it has greater affinity with the dialects of Manihiki-Rakahanga, the Tuamotu, and Mangareva than with those of the Cook and Society Islands and that it has still less affinity with Samoan and Tongan.