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Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary



I have carefully avoided the use of letters to mark the native words as substantive, adjective, verb, &c. It is an unwise, if not a mischievous, effort to make if we endeavour to force the rules of grammar which fit (more or less) the modern stage of the English tongue upon a language belonging to the utterly unequal grammar-period in which the Polynesian speech is now found. I use these expressions with consideration, because I believe that there is a constant progress or decay in all languages, affecting their character and rendering their forms unsuitable. This is certainly the case in regard to the English grammar, where we have seen case-endings and inflected plurals in a state of flux for the last few centuries and tending to disappearance. The Polynesian (of course including Maori) has been in such a condition of isolation that its changes have not been recorded; indeed, they have probably been fewer than those of peoples where intercommunication has been easy, and where language and dialect have again and again, by conquest or commercial enterprise, overlaid and overlapped the linguistic boundaries. The effort to adapt Maori words to rules of English grammar is evaded by the complex simplicity (if I may use such an expression) of the native language, where one word may serve either as verb, noun, or adjective, according to its context, and wherein particles page xiv whose use only practice can render familiar, are able to link words into sentences capable of rendering very subtle and sensitive expression. If we attempt to retain these particles in the net of English grammar, we shall be in the unpleasant situation of having to lay down rules with more exceptions than examples.

The Accent (as màra, mòna, &c.) has been used to denote a lengthened stress upon the vowel so marked. [Through inadvertence, in a few cases the accent has been printed thus, á instead of à.] Some writers of Maori prefer a double letter, as maara, &c., but this is misleading, as the sound is not that of two distinct vowels. In all cases where accents are not used, the first syllable is more strongly marked than the others, although not with the longthened vowel sound.

The pronunciation of the Vowels as printed in Maori and in all Polynesian writings is nearly that used by the Italians. The vowels are as follows:—

a short, almost like the English short u in smut.

à long; rather longer than in father.

e short, as in bent, sent.

è long, resembling the a in Mary.

i short, as in hit, pit, &c.,

é long, as ce in fleet.

o short, as in lock.

ò long, as in cocoa.

u short, as o in lose.

ù long, as oo in pooh.

The Consonants have nearly the same power as in English. Ng is pronounced like ng in flinging, ringing, &c. It is probable that formerly in some localities the r varied into l and d, the p into b, &c., but the efforts to educate the Maori children in their own language have resulted in the production of a classic form, in which the r and p are distinctly r and p. The pronunciation varies slightly with locality, thus tangata is in some places tanata, but these irregularities of the sub-dialects are very fluctuating and unfixed.