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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Preservation of Classical Maori

The present-day Maori language as spoken throughout New Zealand has, of course, lost many of its genuine and ancient words. This situation has evolved because of the necessity for the Maori people to exist in a non-Maori and rapidly changing world with the constant adoption of transliterations into the language. Regardless of this state of affairs, however, the Maori people have in most tribal districts been able to retain much of the classical language of their forbears, though the ability to express thought in the ancient language is limited to a few elders among the various tribes. Preservation of much of the classical language has been possible through the whare runanga, this is, the Maori school of learning based on a system of one tutor to one student. Another method of facilitating preservation is the strongly practised custom of formal and spontaneous oratory patterned strictly upon ancient form and classical language. It is almost impossible to interpret and translate correctly into English this language, which is so full of allusions.