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17 Nisan 2014 Perşembe

New Zealand English

English, te reo Māori (the Māori language) and New Zealand Sign Language are New Zealand’s official languages. New Zealand English is influenced by New Zealand culture, people, institutions, geography, plants and animals.

Changing language

Some words are made informal by shortening them and adding ‘ie’ or ‘o’ – for instance smoko (morning tea) and scarfie (student, after the scarves students wear). Words have acquired new meanings – for instance, a creek was a coastal inlet in the UK, but in New Zealand means a stream.
Words can be compounded to make a new term, such as cattle-stop or woolshed. Some terms, such as haka and jet-boat, are known around the world, but others are only used in New Zealand. A holiday home is called a bach in the North Island but a crib in the South Island.

Studying New Zealand English

Despite New Zealand’s distance and differences from Britain, New Zealanders were expected to develop a similar type of English. New Zealand English was not systematically studied until the late 20th century.

Beginnings of New Zealand English

British explorer James Cook and botanist Joseph Banks gave English names to things in New Zealand, such as tea-tree, native flax and Māori cabbage. Whalers developed a slang that mixed Māori and English words and slang. Words were introduced from rural life, gold mining and kauri gum digging.
Nicknames for New Zealand have included Kiwiland, Maoriland, Aotearoa and Britain of the South Seas.

Words from Māori

New Zealand English includes Māori terms, such as mana, taonga (treasure) and kaumātua flat (accommodation for Māori pensioners). Māori words entered New Zealand English in the early years of European settlement. This happened less after the New Zealand wars of the 1860s, but began again in the 1970s with the Māori renaissance.

New words

New words enter New Zealand English from different sources, including:
  • politics – such as New Zealand First (a political party) and Rogernomics (the economic policies of the fourth Labour government, after Finance Minister Roger Douglas)
  • sport – such as black-water rafting and zorbing
  • conservation – such as kiwi crèche (a nursery for young kiwi) and mainland island (mainland wildlife sanctuary)
  • farming – such as calfetaria or lambitaria (artificial feeding system for calves or lambs)
  • the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes – such as liquefaction (the silty deposit from underground), CERA (the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) and munted (broken).

Phonologically New Zealand English (NZE) has the same 20-vowel phoneme system as British Received Pronunciation (RP), but the New Zealand phonemes are realised differently from RP. However, many New Zealand speakers in the 2000s have only 19 vowel phonemes because they do not make a distinction between the phonemes in NEAR and SQUARE.

Sheepish speech

In 1934 an English visitor to New Zealand, A. N. Fitzgerald, complained that New Zealanders saying phrases like ‘Arthur has parked the car’ sounded like sheep baa-ing.

Vowels in the New Zealand accent

START vowel

In NZE the START vowel in words like ‘park’, ‘calm’ and ‘farm’ is central or even front of central in terms of tongue position. It is one of the most noticeable features of New Zealand and Australian English for people in the northern hemisphere. Unlike today, almost half of a sample of people born in the later 19th century and interviewed in the 1940s used the short vowel of TRAP in words like ‘dance’ and ‘chance’. This is a feature of Australian English in the early 2000s.

KIT vowel

The pronunciation of the KIT vowel clearly distinguishes New Zealanders from Australians. It is commonly claimed that New Zealanders say ‘fush and chups’ where Australians say ‘feesh and cheeps’. Recorded spoken evidence suggests that the NZE pronunciation of KIT as nearer to ‘cut’ first appeared between 1910 and 1930. The first written comments about it appeared in the 1960s.

GOOSE and FLEECE vowels

In NZE the GOOSE vowel is very central. It is sometimes realised as a diphthong (a speech sound which begins in the position of one vowel and glides to another) so that ‘boot’ sounds like ‘boat’. The FLEECE vowel can also appear as a diphthong so that feet’ sounds like ‘fuh-eet’ (this is more pronounced in Australian English).

End of the cultural cringe?

In a British survey of 5,000 people published in 2009, participants thought the New Zealand accent was the most attractive and prestigious non-British form of English. Out of 34 accents of English (including regional British forms), New Zealand was the sixth-most socially attractive accent and the seventh-most prestigious. It trumped the accent of its close cousin, Australia, which was 13th-most socially attractive and 11th-most prestigious.

TRAP and DRESS vowels

The TRAP vowel is raised (pronounced with a high tongue position) in NZE, and outside New Zealand is often mistaken for the DRESS vowel. A New Zealander overseas, Pat, asked people to address him as Patrick instead because he disliked being asked why he was called ‘pet’. The DRESS vowel is also raised in NZE and can be confused with KIT – which is why New Zealanders overseas are given pins when they ask for pens.
A recent change is the further raising of the DRESS vowel into the area of the FLEECE vowel, so that ‘best’ can sound like ‘beast’, and bed’ like ‘bead’.

NURSE vowel

In NZE this is pronounced with rounded lips, and is relatively front and high so it overlaps with the GOOSE vowel. This can cause confusion, where outsiders might hear the NZE word ‘terms’ as ‘tombs’.

High Rising Terminal Contour

The most widely reported intonational feature of NZE is the High Rising Terminal Contour (HRT), a rise in pitch used on declarative sentences. Outsiders mistakenly interpret this as a questioning intonation pattern. The HRT is a politeness feature used by a speaker wishing to involve the hearer in a conversation. It is not unique to New Zealand.

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