Te Hā O Te Tangata; A Discourse Analysis of Language and the Environment

Authors: Hone Waengarangi Morris (Massey University)
Speakers: Hone Waengarangi Morris
Strand: Linguistic Landscapes
Session Type: General Session


The Māori language of Aotearoa New Zealand belongs to the Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian Family sighted as an endangered language and a minority language is the blood line for the culture and identity of the Māori people. Harlow, R. (2007) Māori A Linguistic Introduction

Through supporting the revitalisation over the last 30 years and more recently the normalisation of te reo Māori (the Māori Language) here in Aotearoa New Zealand has led me to experience the beauty of my language. Through sharing the language with fellow Māori and non-Māori and personal research I have incrementally shaped a narrative based on the 5 vowel sounds ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’ and ‘u’ and how they are used to show the intimate connection of the human breath (hā), the pronunciation of these sounds in karakia (incantations), mōteatea (laments), karanga (female call) and whaikōrero (oration) to the environment and the world in which we walk. The Māori language embodies the sensitivities and emotional force of language illustrated in the journey of the breath (hā) of the human body, from the seat of emotions, feelings (aro) creating the word for love, compassion, sympathy AROHA.

Through an analysis of words handed down by my ancestors I have collated examples of phrases and the sequencing of words to illustrate this intimacy of connection of the origin of human breath to the environment and would like to share this framework with other indigenous languages to see if there is relativity in thought between the sounds of the human voice and the sounds of the environment within other indigenous languages.

The literary element onomatopoeia influences the creation of words in many languages. In the Māori language there are examples to describe the sounds emanating from the environment? The call of birds native to Aotearoa reflect the relationship Māori have and have always maintained to the environment by the names given to each species. The sound of running water, and the use of metaphor and simile to also express this intimate relationship will all be discussed.

It is hoped to share these insights with specific examples reflecting the beauty of the Māori language to make further connection to other indigenous languages attending the conference with the view of further research collaborations.

Hei whakakapi māku, “”he taonga te reo ko te reo tōku hau””. In conclusion, “”language is a treasure. language is my vitality””

Keywords: Indigenous, Language, Māori, Environment, Human Body, Phonology, Morphology