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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974


page 18


Drawing of a bearded man holding a doll while sitting on a stack of books

Salient letters' columns are generally lively forums reflecting current topics on the minds of students. At one stage last year it threatened to envelop the rest of the paper. Hopefully this year it will develop in the same way. A healthy letters column means that Salient can get a better idea of student opinion and You can see in print your very own literary contributions. We emphasize the word literary as we are unable to print letters that break the libel or obscenity laws (or not very often). All hedonists are welcome to write on the topic of their choice at reasonable length and they are guaranteed to be published. So don't wrap up your troubles in your head, put them down on paper and put them in the box just inside the door to the Salient Office on the middle floor of the Union Building, or give them to the Editor, or mail them to P.O. Box 1347 Wellington.

Towards the end of last year we devoted a lot of space to discussion of the place of the Maori Language in contemporary society. The Rev. Hemi Potatau, a student at this university, began the discussion with a letter, which was followed in later issues with a number of articles. A reply to Hemi's letter took a long time coming, and arrived after we ceased publication last year. Because we feel this issue is of considerable importance, we reprint here Hemi's original letter, a reply to it, and Hemi's response to the reply.

Dear Sir,

The Maori language can be regarded as a vernacular language. It is not a pidgin language. Why? Because it is the indigenous language of New Zealand spoken by many as a first language; whereas a pidgin language is not an indigenous one. Pidgin language is formed by the mixing up of two or more languages within an area. It is no one's first language. One country in which Pidgin English is widely used is New Guinea. It seems to me that it is due to the fact that the local peoples in order to combat the intrusion of the English language, much preferred at the time a language of their own manufacture. They were not too happy about the Australian introduction of colonisation. Their pidgin English was a compromise, and it has become very popular. When pidgin English is adopted in New Guinea as the first language of some children it could be called a creole language.

How can Maori as a vernacular language justify existance from a sociolinguistic point of New? And in relationship to English, which is the standard and the second language in New Zealand? Historically, due to British colonisation, the Maori language suffered a terrible setback during the second half of the nineteenth century, There has to be only one language in New Zealand, and that was the English language. It is a hundred years since this policy was initiated, and the Maori language is still persisting. This year 1973, there is a greater upsurge among the Maori and the Pakeha people of interest in the perpetuation of the Maori language by its introduction into the primary schools as well as in the Secondary and Universities. A great chief who died in Wellington recently had said while he was still alive: "My Maori language is of highest importance to me. I firmly believe it is a treasure given to me or any Maori as a wonderful gift from God. "Here in these words some sociolinguistic aspects can be clearly observed. His Maori language was sacred to him and so he expresses his loyalty and pride in it. It was a traditional language, it was a language of prestige, of mana and of mauri are (life-principle.) Dare anyone take it away from him even in these modern days! As a Maori, I also hold these aspects and concepts very dearly.

The question is asked, can the Maori language survive for any length of time? To me, the answer is yes, but how? It must, from a sociolinguistic point of view, keep in step with the English language. Sociolinguistics is the study of the relationship between the structure of language and its use in a social and cultural context. It deals with the full relationship between language and society.

First of all, let me discuss the language part of our New Zealand society, to try and weave it into that society. There are two languages in use in New Zealand society: the Maori vernacular language and the English standard language. Let us look briefly at the vocabulary, the lexicon. Yes, Maori in the modern setting is lacking in technical and technological terms. Some of the major languages of the world lack technical terms. They have had to borrow, and have been borrowing for some time. English itself has had to borrow many words in the past from Latin and Greek. If it had not borrowed it would not have survived to this day. Since all Americans speak English, and the populations of the British Isles, and most of the Commonwealth of Nations, it certainly appears to be a formidable language today even alongside Mandarin and Russian. Maori today is borrowing quite a few words from English, even in everyday uses. For example, the words machine (mihini), party (paati), beer (pia), hotel (hotera), Christian (Karaitiana, England (Ingarangi), Scotland (Kotarani), Irish (Airihi) and so on.

Just as there arc different varieties of English, Arabic and French, so there are different varieties of Maori just as there is classical Arabic and colloquial Arabic, so there is classical Maori and colloquial Maori. Classical Maori is most appropriate for ceremonial purposes on the marae; colloquial Maori is used for more everyday conversational purposes.

So we see that the Maori language is worthy of study from a linguistic and sociolinguistic point of view. And perhaps research will contribute to the mana or prestige of our language and encourage the pride and loyalty it will need to survive in New Zealand society.

Hemi Potatau

Dear Sir,

Section divider image

I've not been a student for forty years, but I still read "Salient". Odd, isn't it?

Hemi Potatau, in August 29 issue, writing about the Maori language, is well off the beam. Maori is indeed a vernacular language, but only to Maoris. It is spoken by a small proportion as a first language (less than 25% of Maori children speak it); I have no doubt it has cultural value, but only to Maoris, surely.

Hemi says the language "suffered a terrible setback" due to British colonisation. What nonsense! That colonisation transformed it from a purely spoken language into a written one, with dictionaries, translations and the capacity for teaching, and being taught, in Maori. Admittedly, later the speaking of Maori was banned from the school grounds, but this was part of then then education policy, and was not designed to destroy the language.

He goes on about pidgin English. This does not seem to have any relevance, surely no-one has described Maori as a pidgin language. At any rate his theory about the creation of pidgin English is plainly in error.

My experience in West Africa where pidgin is widely spoken, but not, repeat not, taught in schools, is that it amounts to a basic English adapted to the indigenous patterns of thought. It can be concise and even attractive. When an African says "Master he go come", he means "The boss is out and we expect him back soon". One expression I liked was "wait small" the local equivalent of "hang on a minute mate" In Africa, pidgin is a lingua franca used not only for communicating with whites but across dozens of vemcaulars.

On borrowing. English cannot be said to borrow, except in very minor ways (mufti, pariah, monsoon, algebra). It is constantly developing and new words are created from the original sources, particularly in the scientific and technical fields (ergonomics, cybernetics, cryogens) I don't say English will not hesitate to lift useful and descriptive words from other languages, but there these are the exceptions, and not part of the normal enrichment process.

Maori has no similar sources. It cannot reach back to its roots and come up with a phrase for "computer-assisted systems engineering". It can only, as Hemi Potatau admits, Maori-ise English words. Isn't this getting dangerously near pidgin?

The current preoccupation with the teaching of Maori is, I believe, emotionarlly based and cannot be rationalised. If there is a demand, by all means let it be satisfied. However, there is no justification for it to be included in the school curriculum. Let it be an "extra", like learning the violin or ballet-dancing.

John Brooke-White

Dear Sir,

I was very pleased to read Mr Brooke-White's letter of October 17 criticising my letter of August 29. I had mentioned to you that I was hoping there would be a critical reply to mine forthcoming so that one would be able to balance my statement and that of the critic for the right or otherwise of the Maori language and culture to exist in this modern world. Mr Brooke-White says that he has not been a student for 40 years. Does this mean that he has made a special study of my language, of linguistics and sociolinguistics during his youthful and university days? Well, I do not pretend to be an authority on these subjects except Maori as I have only taken them this year. But I became so fascinated with them, especially sociolinguistics, that I gave my whole heart and mind to the subject of Maori language and culture. Sociolinguistics in our seminar classes has been such a living subject to me that I have tried to bring my own Maori language—my impudence, n'est-ce pas?—alongside such world languages as Arabic, French, English.

In the third paragraph of your letter you say that my statement "suffers a terrible setback due to colonisation" was nonsense. I want to point out here, e hoa John, that I was referring to an article by Dr Bruce Biggs in Eric Schwimmer's symposium "The Maori People of the 1960's" page 65 ff with the heading 'Maori language, Past and Present'. I remember being present at a Maori Teachers' language conference held in Rotorua just before WW II. The late very Reverent J.G. Laugh ton CMG was Chairman at the course, A senior inspector of Maori schools was accused by some of those present of having deliberately stopped the Maori children from speaking Maori. It was part of the Government policy of that day with regard to Maori education. Of course, when I went to the Maori school at Nuhaka, as soon as we spoke Maori in the school grounds, (in about 1910) we would be strapped or caned because the headmaster and some of the pakeha teachers thought that we were being rude about them What an excuse! Why didn't they learn Maori? The education policy of compelling us to forget our Maori language was a fact all right. It was not nonsense, as you have said. If you read the article by Dr Biggs in Schwimmer's symposium you will realise that I was not telling falsehoods. Besides, I and my people were the sufferers, not you.

Right the facts you mention, such as the rendering of the English Bible into Maori; the compilation of dictionaries, grammar books, written literature and so on I heartily agree to. The missionaries did a great job. They always do in this connection when they start missionary work in new lands and among new people. Professor Lees, the Williams', Samuel Marsden, Bishop Maunsel and so on, as well as the missionaries of the Methodist and Roman Catholic churches, all did an excellent job, and I take my hat off to them and all the others as well. That is why today I am able to write the article which you have been criticising.

Now in your paragraph on pidgin English. What you have said is true up to a point. I might have been sensitive on this matter. Somehow and somewhere I have fell that some pakeha people have been trying to inculcate into the minds of my people and children that our Maori language is not a language at all, but a pidgin language, hence my reaction and defence. I have tried to understand pidgin language from the lectures and seminars we have been receiving this year, and have tried to understand also from the reading of our textbooks such as "The pidginisation and Creolisation of Language" edited by Dell Hymes, 1971, Cambridge University press. Then in J.B. Pride and J. Holmes' book "Sociolinguistics" on page 142 we have the definition of a pidgin language, which is "one whose structure and lexicon have been drastically reduced, and which is native to none of those who use it." And this is how I have tried to explain it. The points you make in paragraph five are no doubt correct. My point was an attempt to refute accusations that Maori is such a drastically reduced language unfit for use in schools.

On borrowing: Your paragraph 6 is, I must say, definitely wrong. I am not changing my explanation for yours, and this is universally accepted by those who have made a proper study of the English language. I have explained fully in my article that our Maori language is indigenous. It belongs to the people who owned this land before you pakeha people came. The English and European people have made a great impact with their civilisation on our peoples, just as the Scandinavians, French and Romans did on the people of England and many centuries ago, with a similar linguistic effect. I was watching on a TV programme the other night of the same kind of impact on the New Guinean people and Papuan people. The anthropologists came to the rescue of the native people and on December 1 they will have self government preparatory to independence. They will have a standard or a national language, whichever it might be—a language of their own choosing, not by compulsion from outsiders or foreigners. I am sure the anthropologists, the sociolinguists and the missionaries will be there to help.

In my second article published in Salient on September 5, which, it appears you have not read, you would see the practical example which my people can speak our Maori language with the exception, I must say, of our Maori children. But many of them want to learn their indigenous language and not only that, many pakeha children also want to learn it at school. If they so desire it, are you going to deprive them of it? Our trip to Nuhaka—Anthropology 304, Maori Society and Culture, (adv)—was a huge success according to our heads as well as the group, not only anthropologically but sociolinguistically. You read my second article on the Maori language, and after you have read it you would not compare it with the violin and ballet dancing.

According to Dr Rangi Walker, the future of New Zealand lies in the development of it its potential bilingualism and biculturalism—English and Maori. The late Sir A.T. Ngata M.A., LL.B., B. Litt. D., wrote into a diary of a pakeha high school girl these words:

"E tipu, e rea, i nga ra o tou ao
Ko o ringaringa ki nga taonga a o tipuna
Hei tikitiki mo to mahunga;
Ko to ngakau ki te Atua
Nana nei nga mea katoa.

"Grow thou, youth, for the days of your world
Your hands to grasp the tool of the pakeha,
For your bodily sustenance
Your heart to cling to the treasures of your
As a means of retaining your identity;
Your heart to God,
The Creator of all things."

This is biculturalism and bilingualism. See also Richard Benton, (1972) "Should bilingualism be fostered in New Zealand schools?" He definitely thinks it should be.

Hemi Potoatau

page 19

On Not Enrolling

C/-Chief Poet Office. Nelson.

Dear Sir,

Thoughts on wandering through the corridors of Victoria University and sipping coffee in the cafeteria.

Three months on the road, three months away from exams and a decision not to return and finish a degree at my Australian University, the doubts of an upbringing that said schooling was education and was good and necessary were starting to nag at me. Could it really have been that bad? that stuffy? that cliquey? were the lectures really so boring?

This was my first visit to Victoria Varsity but two very familiar men in sum (obviously professors or lecturers) walked by discussing in cultured tones course content and the number of students. The familiar bewildered faces of first year students as they walked from desk to desk trying to cope with enrolment procedure and the hordes of clubs (mainly religious) looking for members.

Old hands greeting friends over coffee then staking out their seat in the library.

I looked at the handbook with its usual radical blurbs and critiques and then at the students—so many of whom will argue that much of varsity, its aims and courses are ratshit but will still sit up to have assignment in in time, sit the exams and play the university game in the rarified air above Wellington harbour or anywhere else.

It seems to come down to this—an atmosphere of unreality, of half people, of unbalanced studies—I can tell you about Shakespeare but not how to grow a garden; write a chemical treatise but am not willing or able to reorganise my life style to make maximum use of resources; study sociology yet can sit in lectures for a year, greet two or three people and then race off at lunch time to small groups of firends, too afraid or pressured by assignments and classes just without the time for wider contact. So busy turning out essays, experiments, exams there is no time to learn an absolute anything! Or even wonder why.

And from a general impression of Victoria University it is the same there as at home. Anyway, my doubts vanished and my sympathy goes out, especially to those first year students who have come straight from school.

Maybe if I had a degree and knew something I could give you advice and say get out of the education system at least for one year. Give yourself time to look at it more objectively and assess whether it really has anything to offer you. Take time to find out, when you have no one structuring your life for you, who you are, how you like to spend your time—perhaps travel, work a little, take-time to meet different people, to sit around and talk.

But anyway, if you're smart enought to be at university you'll know better than to take these thoughts seriously.

AI Genn

Last Years Argument Continued:

(i) Marxist Knowledge

Dear Sir,

In a letter published in "Salient" on September 19, Peter Wilson states that the Marxist theory of knowledge "asserts that things can only be known in the degree to which they are changed or altered," a statement which invoked in me some unease.

Peter quotes by way of example: "To know the taste of a pear one must change the pear by biting it." But I ask him whether it is necessary to change the pear in order to know its colour, or even its smell?

I have found that the dilemma is well resolved by Mao Tsetung ("Four Essays on Philosophy", p 134, the essay "Where do correct ideas come from?") Knowledge has essentially two aspects: perceptual, that is the information or knowledge accummulated by observation of the real world by means of our five sense organs, and conceptual, or theoretical knowledge.

"The leap to conceptual knowledge, i.e., to ideas, occurs when sufficient perceptual knowledge is accumulated." But we cannot yet say that the idea is correct. It must be tested in practice, i.e., that conceptual knowledge must be compared with a new selection of perceptual knowledge.

"Often a correct idea can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge." (p 135)

The next sentence seems singularly appropriate: "Among our comrades there are many who do not yet understand this theory of knowledge. When asked the source of their ideas, opinions, policies, methods, plans and conclusions, eloquent speeches and long articles, they consider the question strange and cannot answer it."

I present this to you as a fraternal criticism, in the hope that it will aid in the process of understanding and transforming this present society.

Yours fraternally,

John Christie.

(ii) Menstrual Extraction

Dear Comrades,

This is my last word on the subject of the Lorraine Rothman visit. It seems that Comrade Wilson and I must agree to differ as his priorities are different from mine. I am concerned with what women want whereas he is concerned with tactics and strategy. To me all this talk about strategy is alien to my ideas of socialism. Woman want to find out about selfhelp centres and this has been proved by the tremendous response shown to the tour. I found her work both interesting and exciting as for too long women's needs in the field of health and welfare have been disregarded as trivial or the result of neurosis. Lorraine Rothman throughout her tour emphasised the need for doctors and qualified personnel and categorically stated that the menstrual extractor is not an abortion causing device. Finally I would like to thank o all those sisters who wrote in expressing similar views to mine. Most so-called revolutionaries would do well to heed the desires of their women comrades as they will need them when the revolution comes more than they'll need perfect tactics or strategies.

Yours in the revolution,

Jill Basher

(iii) Omega

Dear Sirs,

On the basis of the cliche "A picture is worth a thousand words" I enclose a "letter" on the subject of Israeli militarism which I feel is worth a few hundred, at least.

My second letter is of more conventional form and was provoked by the item "Omega Story Corrections" of the October 3 edition. I read the letter of B. Jones and, as you imply, his claims are not wholly true.

In the highly reputable McGraw-Hill publication, "Electronics", a periodical concerned with the US electronics industry, the December 1967 edition, in the section "Washington Newsletter" is an article headed—"Pentagon Anchors Navy's Omega". The entire article reads as follows:—

"Navy officials seeking the Pentagon's go ahead for full-scale deployment of the Omega navigation system got the answer they were afraid of getting: approval, but no funding to implement it. As expected (Electronics, Oct. 16, p 69), the Defence Department's reasons were based on the crackdown on non-Vietnam military spending. And the Navy is pessimistic about getting any funds in the fiscal 1969 budget to turn its limited research and development system into an operation worldwide navigation network.

"The Pentagon told the Navy it could give Omega's four present transmitters "operational status"—whatever that means. As one Navy project officer put it: "Your guess is as good as mine". They very low-frequency transmitters, though officially listed as R & D installations, actually have been operational for more than a year.

"Had the Pentagon gone along with full-scale deployment, the Navy planned to double the power of the transmitters and add other equipment at these four sites. It also would have built four more transmitters. The way things stand now, the Navy says it would welcome an offer by any other nation to build the transmitters."

I submit that this article clearly and authoritatively shows that Omega is military.

I make one further quotation from the same publication, though I am unable to judge its significance.

"Registered US Patent Office; copyright 1867 by McGraw-Hill Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce the contents of this publication in whole or in part."

Yours sincerely

Pete Mackey

Cartoon two people with guns, one wearing an iron cross, the other a peace sign

Look of all them wogs, Goldie — they act Me they

Owned the place!