Māori Pronunciation


The pronunciation of Māori is changing. Older native speakers living today pronounce Māori words quite differently to younger adult speakers who are more proficient in English (i.e., English dominant). In turn older native speaker's pronunciation is somewhat different to their grandparents who were more likely to a use a more distinctive a set of vowels when speaking either language (the references below cite research to support this).

Younger speakers of Māori show marked influences of English in their pronunciation of Māori. This is not surprising given the Māori community (with few exceptions) is very much English speaking.

English speaking learners of Māori often have difficulty with three consonants; /ng/, /r/, /wh/, the /o/ monophthong, the final /e/ monophthong, and diphthongs especially /au/, /ou/, and /ao/ (further details to come).

English speakers often find Māori stress assignment difficult, particularly with words of three syllables often incorrectly assigning stress on the penultimate syllable. (see details on Māori phonology).

Most Māori pronunciation resources available are of limited value. All they do is provide exemplars of pronunciation. Generally the authors do not have the technical background (in terms of auditory/acoustic knowledge) to describe how Māori should be pronounced correctly and how it is different to New Zealand English.

MAONZE is a research project undertaking research on changes in the pronunciation of Māori and New Zealand English. 

Included below are recent references on New Zealand English.



Brand, J., Hay, J., Clark, L., Watson, K., & Sóskuthy, M. (2021). Systematic co-variation of monophthongs across speakers of New Zealand English. Journal of Phonetics, 88, Article 101096. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2021.101096

Bauer, W. A. (1993). Māori. London: Routledge.

Harlow, R. (2007). Māori: A linguistic introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harlow, R., Keegan, P.J., King, J., Maclagan, M., & Watson, C.I. (2005). Te whakahuatanga i te reo Māori: Kua ahatia e tātou i roto i ngā tau 100 kua hipa nei? The pronunciation of Māori: What have we done to it in the last 100 years? He Puna Kōrero, Journal of Māori & Pacific Development, 6(1), 7-27.

Keegan, P.J., Watson, C.I., Maclagan, M., & King., J. (2014). Sound Change in Māori and the formation of the MAONZE project. In M. Degani, A. Onysko, & J. King (Eds.), He Hiringa He Pūmanawa, Studies on the Māori Language: A Festschrift in honour of Ray Harlow (pp. 33-54). Wellington: Huia.

Maclagan, M., Harlow, R., King, J., Keegan, P.J., & Watson, C.I. (2004). New Zealand English influence on Māori pronunciation over time. Te Reo, Journal of the Linguistic Society of New Zealand, 47, 45-57.

Maclagan, M. & King, J. (2002). The pronunciation of wh in Māori - a case study from the late nineteenth century. Te Reo: Journal of the Linguistic Society of New Zealand 45, 45-63.

Maclagan, M., & Warren, P. (2021). The English(es) of New Zealand. In A. Kirkpatrick (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of World Englishes (pp. 149-161). Routledge.

Watson C.I., Keegan P.J., Maclagan M., Harlow, R., & King J. The motivation and development of MPAi, a Māori Pronunciation Aid, Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (Interspeech), Stockholm, August 20-24, 2017.

Watson, C.I., Maclagan, M., King, J., Harlow, R., & Keegan P.J., (2016). Sound change in Māori and the Influence of New Zealand English. Journal of the International Phonetics Association, 46, 02, 185-218. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0025100316000013

Last modified: 6 January 2022. NZST

This page is Copyright © Peter J Keegan, PhD, 2003-2024.