ew Zealand has two official languages, English and Maori. Virtually all citizens speak English, while a large number of Maori people and a few pakeha speak Maori, which is often exclusively used on Maoris. Maori is a Polynesian language, not dissimilar to the languages of Hawaii and French Polynesia. It is not uncommon to hear Maori words in the middle of English sentences, especially when they have no exact English translation - for instance, whonou (extended family), or mona (a mix of respect, power and esteem). Maori greetings are also often used - kia ore (hello) and haere mai (welcome). In the past, Maori children were punished for speaking their native language at school, but now it is widely taught and ail government departments have both English and Maori titles.
Maori place names are widely used throughout New Zealand, and always have been. However many of the major landmarks have European names, and in recent years there has been a tendency to reinstate original Maori names. An example is Mt Taranaki, formerly Mt Egmont. At first many pakeha were strongly against this, but over time, and as ties with Europe and Britain in particular become weaker, most New Zealanders have happily adjusted to names that have more of a New Zealand identity.
Most Maori names are descriptive, either of a place or event. Commonly used
prefixes and suffixes include wai (water), roto (lake), puae (hiii), moanc (ocean
or lake), whangci or wanga (harbour, inlet or bay), cwo (river or valley), tara
and mounga (mountain), motu (island), hou (wind), and kai (eat). These descriptions
are usually qualified with one or more words including nui (big), iti (small),
roa (long or high), and rou (many). In this way Rotoiti becomes 'small lake',
Rotoroa is 'long lake', Wanganui is 'big harbour', and Pukerau is 'many hills'.
Many places have much longer and more evocative names, but are shortened to
a usable length. The ultimate example is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotarnateapokawhenakitanatahu
itself supposedly a shortened version of an even longer name, but commonly shortened
to 'Taumata'. There is more than one translation of the name, claimed to be
the world's longest, including: 'The place where Tamatea, the man with the big
knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as Landeater, played
his flute to his loved one'; and 'when Tamatea's brother was killed in a battle
near here, Tarnatea climbed this ridge and played a larnent on his flute'.
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