New Zealand English 4


This is the fourth post in a series on Hay, Maclagan, and Gordon’s New Zealand English.

In the fourth chapter, the authors explore NZE vocabulary and related discourse features. Already in the 1679 visit of James Cook to Aotearoa (New Zealand), Māori words such as pā were adopted into the English language. Up until about 1860 though, NZE stopped most of its borrowing from Māori. It wasn’t until the 1970s that new borrowings began again on a larger scale. Māori loanwords can be sorted into three categories: flora and fauna (tōtara and kiwi), society and culture (haka and marae), and proper nouns (mostly place names, such as Whakatāne). (Unfortunately the authors do not use macrons, which I have inserted here. This is perhaps due to how they are represented in NZE, but this does not account for increasing recognition of macrons on the part of speakers of NZE). From the 1970s onwards, new words like Aotearoawaka, and tangata whenua.

In NZE, various loanwords took on new pronunciations. Waka, for example, often rhymes with NZE rocker rather than NZE sucker. Some place names were shortened. In Canterbury, for example, many speakers of NZE refer to the Waimakariri River as the Waimak, rhyming with back. It is also common to make Māori nouns plural by adding an S to the end, whereas in Māori the plural is indicated by the preceding article or the context. We do not speak of many Māoris but many Māori. The authors note that while innovations such as this are typical of the lives of loanwords, some have also criticised these innovations as insensitive to Māori culture. This is fair and I think the authors would have done well to provide a slightly more extended comment here.

NZE has also borrowed from Australian English. Borrowings include skite (to boast, or someone who boasts), and hard case (“someone who has a big personality, may do unusual things but basically is a real laugh.”). NZers show preference for some American words over British ones: guys over fellowsmuffler over silencertruck over lorry.

It is not only from external sources that NZE has developed. Languages develop internally too. Unique internal vocabulary developments include words like freezing works, number eight wire, and sausage sizzle. Speakers of NZE show a preference for suffixing words with a -y or -ie, such as in chippy. Speakers of Aus. E. tend to suffix with an -o, such as in smoko, which has also been borrowed by NZers. Slang words include dag (“a lock of wool clotted with dry manure on the rear end of a sheep” [p.80]), cop shop (police station), and Ashvegas (Ashburton a town in Canterbury). I would be interested in learning more about the role of slang among different demographics in NZE, as I wasn’t sure how much a strong distinction could be erected between slang and other language. Although the authors don’t erect such a distinction, neither was it confronted.

Two words used frequently in discourse by some speakers of NZE are eh, more prevalent among Māori, and like, prevalent among young women but not especially unique to NZE. “Yeah, I don’t know eh.” “Like no one does that any more.”

New Zealand English 3


This is the third post in a series on Hay, Maclagan, and Gordon’s New Zealand English.

In the third chapter, the authors introduce the reader to NZE’s morphosyntax. Morphology concerns how different parts of a word work together to create meaning. After something is done it can be undone. The un here signals the reversing of the action, though it signals other things in other words. Syntax concerns how words are put together with other words to form meaning, like word order, for example.

One interesting aspect of NZE morphosyntax is the use of the past participle for the simple past tense. Take, for example, the English word write. Its past form is wrote, and its past participle is have written. Researchers have found that some speakers of NZE will say such as “I seen a bottle” instead of either “I saw a bottle” or “I have seen a bottle.” Other examples include done for didcome for came, and rung for rang. On the other end, some speakers of NZE make use of what has been called the “intrusive have.” “If I had have known, I wouldn’t have told her” might be heard in place of “If I had known…”

Next the authors address modal verbs, verbs like could, wouldcanwill, which help us understand how to read other verbs in the sentence. A feature of NZE here is a lack of the modal verb shall, in comparison with General American and even with Australian English. Speakers of NZE will also more frequently talk about the future with the modal verb be going to than other Englishes. “I will go to the movies tonight” might be said, “I am going to go to the movies tonight.”

Some modal verbs require the verb have in certain cases. “I should have done it already.” In both written and spoken NZE the have is sometimes replaced with an of (a phenomenon that is not restricted to NZE and is often viewed as a mistake). Another interesting aspect of these have-constructions is how they are negated in NZE. Because should’ve (or should of) is understood to be a single unit, instead of “should not have,” some speakers of NZE will say things like “should of not” or “could’ve not.”

Other distinctive features of NZE morphosyntax are the use of the singular there is or there was for there are or there were; a relatively high rate compared with other Englishes of the singular they, and even occurrences of “themself”; yous or you guys as a plural for you; and variations in comparatives: more cleanermore clean, and most cleanest, for example, instead of cleaner or cleanest.

New Zealand English 2


This is the second post in a series on Hay, Maclagan, and Gordon’s New Zealand English.

After addressing consonants and vowels, i.e., segmental features, features pertaining to a single segment in a word, the authors move on to suprasegmental features. These still concern how New Zealand English (NZE) sounds. They belong to phonetics and phonology, rather than the study of vocabulary or grammar. But these features “usually span more than one segment” (27).

First, the authors address NZE intonation. One distinctive feature of NZE intonation is the High Rising Terminal (HRT). Many speakers of NZE will raise their intonation where speakers of other Englishes would only do so when asking a question. Initially, researchers interpreted the use of HRTs in NZE as signs of uncertainty. However, recent research has shown that they are best interpreted in terms of politeness: “HRTs … do function as questions, but not questions asking for information. Rather they function as questions that are checking that the speaker really is giving the information that the listener wants, and that the listener understands what the speaker is saying” (28).

Another suprasegmental feature is stress. In English, stress often falls on certain syllables in different words and sentences. Most words will have the same syllable stressed each time and the meaning can change according to where the stress lies. We buy produce (noun) but we produce (verb) things. This stress differentiation between noun and verb is not consistent in English, though in NZE some other words seem to be merging. We have imports and we import iron. (Others, including other speakers of NZE, will say we import iron).

Finally, the English language is stress-timed. “Stressed syllables occur at approximately equal time intervals … This can be seen most clearly in poetry or nursery rhymes, where different numbers of syllables take up the same time”: The authors give the example of Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Even though there are two syllables between sat and wall, they take up the same amount of time as the single syllable between Hump and Dump. However, NZE is less stress-timed than British English, as can be seen for example in giving fuller pronunciation to syllables often unstressed in British English. This is perhaps due to the influence of Māori, which is a syllable-timed language, having roughly equal time intervals between syllables rather than between stressed syllables.

NZE also currently looks to be undergoing sound changes. The authors note a number of these but I will only address a few. The hw sound in white and which has for many NZers become simply a sound. For other NZers, the two th sounds, in words like thumb and thing on the one hand and then words like this and the on the other, are being pronounced as fs and vs, respectively. Many NZers now pronounce words like grown and thrown with two syllables, whereas in British English they rhyme with groan and throne.

New Zealand English by Jennifer Hay, Margaret Maclagan, and Elizabeth Gordon


Over the holiday period I thought I’d dip into some books on New Zealand English (NZE). After Q & Eh: Questions and Answers on Language with a Kiwi Twist, I have found Hay, Maclagan and Gordon’s more formal introduction to be quite accessible to the non-specialist.

After introducing the reader to the geographical and historical context of NZE in the first chapter, the second chapter focusses on the distinctive phonetic and phonological features of NZE. (I still haven’t quite grasped the distinction between phonetics and phonology, but see the discussion here).

The authors begin with consonants in NZE. First, NZE is mostly non-rhotic, with some exceptions. That is, R is only usually pronounced before vowels. We do not pronounce it in hear but we do in hearing. Yet, we will pronounce it when the following word begins with a vowel: “I hear a mouse.” This is called a linking R. Interesting, NZers overcompensate here so that what has been called the intrusive R is also very common. Rs that would not be there in rhotic varieties of English, such as General American or Scottish Standard English, appear between words ending and beginning with vowels in NZE. “Rebecca and Megan” is often pronounced “Rebecca(R)and Megan.”

The consonant T also finds interesting expression in NZE. Where it is the final sound in a word it is often expressed with a glottal stop, i.e., the stopping sound you hear between the two syllables in “Uh-oh.” Its most famous English expression is possibly in the Cockney pronunciation of butter as “buh-uh.” In NZE though, you can often hear it at the end of words like “but.” This is not always the case though. Some may still pronounce the T, yet even those who otherwise provide a glottal stop may make something like a D sound (not exactly though) if the next word begins with a vowel: “Bu(d) I like it.” You can also hear this where the T is in the middle of a word: butter might sound like bu(dd)er, etc.

A final consonantal distinctive is the pronunciation of L in NZE. Many New Zealanders will replace it with a vowel sound, something like a W, when the L sound is on the end of a world: cool becomes coo(w). As with the T sound, this also happens sometimes in the middle of words. A famous example in NZE is milk:

The authors then move on to the distinctive vowel sounds of NZE. I will highlight some of the more well-known ones. The authors follow the system of lexical sets, typical in linguistics, that John C. Wells established in 1982. Because vowel sounds frequently change across different generations and geographical areas in the English language, Wells found it more helpful to tie sounds to particular words. Thus we talk about the START vowel, pronounced differently in both General American and the Received Pronunciation (“Queen’s English”). This vowel appears in other words such as park and market. While speakers of NZE for the most part pronounce the START vowel in a similar way to speakers of Australian English, NZE is distinctive in that it also uses it in words like dance and castle where Australians will use the TRAP vowel.

Most famous is the KIT vowel in NZE. The difference between Aus. E and NZE here is much more marked, both having seemed to have diverged in different directions from the Received Pronunciation. In NZE, words like fishbig, and systematic are pronounced with a vowel close to or even identical with the schwa, the most central position in the mouth that a vowel can take up. The schwa appears in NZE and the Received Pronunciation in words like again and sofa. Interesting the NZE DRESS vowel is closer to the KIT vowel of the Received Pronunciation and General American. NZE’s NURSE vowel is also distinctive. I will comment on it when I address dialectical variety in NZE.

Finally, the authors address NZE diphthongs. These are vowel sounds where the tongue moves from one place to another in the mouth throughout the duration of pronouncing the vowel, as opposed to monophthongs like START, KIT, and DRESS vowels. Diphthongs include vowels like FACE, MOUTH, and PRICE. Without any linguistic training, I found this section more difficult to follow.

However, I read with particular interest about the NEAR-SQUARE merger in NZE. Whereas these two vowels are pronounced differently in most other varieties of English, many NZE speakers do not differentiate between them in speaking and, without practice, would also find it difficult to differentiate between them when hearing them. The TOUR diphthong has become a monophthong for many speakers of NZE. For others, this vowel is no longer a diphthong either but instead has become two syllables.

New Page Up

I have just created a new page listing dissertations and theses relating to Moltmann’s theology. There is still a lot of work to do so I am not taking suggestions at this stage. I do invite you, however, to offer corrections, and if you are aware of any of the works being open access I would be grateful if you provided me with a link. If you are an author of one of the works and would like to make it open access, please contact me also.

Kia Ora!

Kia ora! My name is Cameron Coombe and I have just commenced my PhD studies in theology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. My thesis is entitled, “The Role of Scripture in Jürgen Moltmann’s Doctrine of God.” I will be focussing at first on his major works, though drawing on smaller works, chapters, articles, etc, where applicable. I have set up this blog with the intention of contributing to Moltmann scholarship the world over with small contributions such as bibliographical material and whatever else might be useful. I’ll tell you a little more about myself in future.