Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Coming of the Maori


The education of children commenced at home, and thefamily supplied the training which is left to primary and secondary schools in the advanced cultures. The first words of speech were followed with interest by the parents, and the child's vocabulary was increased by teaching it the names of the parts of the human body, physiological processes, foods, and surrounding objects, and the terms for relatives. The terms for various actions were introduced, and verbs thus added to the stock of nouns. Simple sentences followed, and gradually the significance of the singular, dual, and plural numbers and the active and passive tenses of verbs were acquired. The child learned to copy the speech of its parents and relatives and, as any grammatical lapses were immediately corrected, there was no chance of developing careless forms of speech. When words are mastered singly and heard correctly used by one's elders there is no difficulty with the passive endings of verbs which form such a bugbear to pakeha students. It is the modern tendency to standardize by using one passive ending for all verbs, and this has caused the present-day confusion among the younger generation of both races. Previous generations learned by ear and detected errors by sound.

In the Maori dialect, there are strict idioms with regard to the interrogatives used in asking the name of things, persons, and places. The child was taught to learn the name of things by question and answer. Touching his own or the child's nose, the parent would say, "He aha tenet?" (What is this?) and then the answer followed, "He ihu" (A nose). Thus "He aha" or "E aha" became established as the interrogative "what" in asking a question for the name of anything. However, when the child wanted to know the name of a person and asked "He aha tona ingoa" (What is his name?), he was immediately corrected. The correct interrogative for the name of persons was "Ko wai" (who), so the correct form of the question was "Ko wai tona ingoa" (Who is his name?). In the reply, the actual page 357name was always preceded by the particle ko as "Ko Tamatea" (It is Tamatea).

A third complication faced the child when he inquired about the name of a place, such as that of a neighbouring mountain. If he asked, "He aha te ingoa o tera maunga" (What is the name of that mountain?) or "Ko wai te ingoa o tera maunga?" (Who is the name of that mountain?), he was wrong on both counts, for the correct interrogative to use for place names was "Ko whea" (Where). The correct question was "Ko whea te ingoa o tera maunga?" (Where [what] is the name of that mountain?) or simply "Ko whea tera maunga?" Again the name was preceded by ko in answering as "Ko Ruapehu" (It is Ruapehu). Early European inquirers, in asking the names of things and places, mistook the introductory particle for part of the name and combined them as Cook did in hippah for a fortified village (he pa). Again, in asking the name of Tahiti, the Tahitians who drop the k in their dialect replied "'O Tahiti" and the Cook spelling became "Otaheite". I mention the above at some length, because I experienced some difficulty with grammar in my childhood having grown up in a European village where English was the current speech. Had I grown up entirely in a Maori village where Maori was the current speech, any mistakes would have been immediately corrected and no subsequent difficulty would have occurred.