After the wars, Maori continued to lose their land through the operation of the Native Land Court. Maori in politics have competed to preserve their land, assert their treaty rights, fight assimilation, and above all assert their "Maoritanga," the identity of their language, culture, and tribal cohesion. The language came to Aotearoa, Maori for New Zealand, with the Polynesian migrations about one thousand years ago, which most likely began in the area now known as the French Polynesia. Since then, the language developed independently of other Polynesian tongues. New Zealand Maori is most closely related to the Cooks Islands Maori, Tahitian, and Hawaiian. It is somewhat less related to Samoan, Tongan, and Melanesian.
It is to be noted that Maori possessed no written code before the arrival of the Europeans. The missionaries viewed literacy as a means of changing their belief structure. Fortunately, those who developed the writing system were good linguists, basing the language on founded scientific principles, such as one sound unit corresponding to a single system.
There are only fifteen letters in the Maori alphabet. They are h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w, a, e, i, o, u, wh, and ng. There is a vowel at the end of each syllable, and changing the number of vowels alters the meaning of the word. Whereas many European languages use suffixes to show plurality, Maori use prefixes and order of subject-verb to give a variety of information.
Much like our Webster's, Maori have their own standard reference dictionary. It is called A Dictionary of the Maori Language and is written by H.W. Williams. It was compiled by the missionary Bishop William Williams and first issued in 1844. The Williams family has continued with the dictionary through the first five editions and three reprints. The dictionary now bears...