Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Te Wiki o te Reo Maori

I’m a few days late in addressing the fact that it’s Maori Language Week in New Zealand but I got here in the end. It’s a time when the focus goes on the fact that despite a huge renaissance, Maori language is still not ‘out of the water.’ The theme this year is Te Reo i te Hapori – Maori language in the community and many events have been planned around the country to encourage people to participate in the language in some way. Census statistics for 2006 showed that less than one quarter of Maori adults were proficient Maori speakers, so despite the fact that there has been an enormous increase in the use of te Reo Maori on television, in schools, on the radio and in everyday signage, the Maori Language Commission is encouraging people to use Maori language in the home to ensure its survival. Anyone visiting this blog regularly will know that I present a series called Maori Place Names. The one shown in the above image was photographed on East Cape. Long names are not uncommon in te Reo Maori – I’ve featured many of them here already – but the king of them all is found in the tiny North Island village of Porangahau, which is 55km south-east of Waipukura in southern Hawke’s Bay. As well as being home to the richly-named Rongomaraeroa Marae, it has the distinction of having a small hill (1,000ft) with the 92-letter name: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, which means ‘The hilltop where Tamatea, with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, travelled over land and sea, played his kaouau (flute) to his beloved.' Not surprisingly, it is one of the longest place names in the world.

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