Spoken Languages

New Zealand's first university, the University of Otago (Dunedin)New Zealand has two official languages, English and Maori. Virtually all citizens speak English, while a large number of Maori people and a few pakeha speak Maori, which is often exclusively used on Maoris. Maori is a Polynesian language, not dissimilar to the languages of Hawaii and French Polynesia.

It is not uncommon to hear Maori words in the middle of English sentences, especially when they have no exact English translation - for instance, whonou (extended family), or mona (a mix of respect, power and esteem). Maori greetings are also often used - kia ore (hello) and haere mai (welcome). In the past, Maori children were punished for speaking their native language at school, but now it is widely taught and ail government departments have both English and Maori titles.

Maori place names are widely used throughout New Zealand, and always have been. However many of the major landmarks have European names, and in recent years there has been a tendency to reinstate original Maori names. An example is Mt Taranaki, formerly Mt Egmont. At first many pakeha were strongly against this, but over time, and as ties with Europe and Britain in particular become weaker, most New Zealanders have happily adjusted to names that have more of a New Zealand identity.

Most Maori names are descriptive, either of a place or event. Commonly used prefixes and suffixes include wai (water), roto (lake), puae (hiii), moanc (ocean or lake), whangci or wanga (harbour, inlet or bay), cwo (river or valley), tara and mounga (mountain), motu (island), hou (wind), and kai (eat). These descriptions are usually qualified with one or more words including nui (big), iti (small), roa (long or high), and rou (many). In this way Rotoiti becomes 'small lake', Rotoroa is 'long lake', Wanganui is 'big harbour', and Pukerau is 'many hills'. Many places have much longer and more evocative names, but are shortened to a usable length.

The ultimate example is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotarnateapokawhenakitanatahu itself supposedly a shortened version of an even longer name, but commonly shortened to 'Taumata'. There is more than one translation of the name, claimed to be the world's longest, including: 'The place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as Landeater, played his flute to his loved one'; and 'when Tamatea's brother was killed in a battle near here, Tarnatea climbed this ridge and played a larnent on his flute'.

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