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First Lessons in Maori

§ 3. Pronunciation

§ 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.

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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.