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  #1  
Old 06-15-2004, 10:59 AM
Fiver Fiver is offline
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Pronunciation of "Maori"

I'm having a little disagreement with a friend. He insists, falsely, that the name of the native New Zealanders is pronounced "May-or-ee" while I know the correct pronunciation is "MAH-OH-ree."

We've each found websites that support our belief, and both seem authoritative.

So what's the Straight Dope?
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  #2  
Old 06-15-2004, 11:14 AM
lisacurl lisacurl is offline
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It's MOW-ree, approximately.

That pronunciation is from people who are, in fact, Maori.
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  #3  
Old 06-15-2004, 11:18 AM
Giles Giles is offline
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Maori

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiver
I'm having a little disagreement with a friend. He insists, falsely, that the name of the native New Zealanders is pronounced "May-or-ee" while I know the correct pronunciation is "MAH-OH-ree."
OK, I previewed my draft message, and it did not work, because the a-macron character does not work.

In the word "Maori", the first vowel is a long vowel, which can either be written with a macron over it (which looks like a hyphen over a letter), or can be written as a double letter ("Maaori"). So it is pronounced in Maori much more like "ah" than like "ay" is in English. So Fiver is right (though I might add that I'm not a real expert on Maori).
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  #4  
Old 06-15-2004, 11:24 AM
Giles Giles is offline
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Ow

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amanita
It's MOW-ree, approximately.

That pronunciation is from people who are, in fact, Maori.
I do not doubt that the explanation comes from Maori people. The problem is that in English "ow" has at least two different pronunciations, i.e. the two diofferent ways that you can say "bow". The kind of "bow" that you use with arrows rhymes with the usual pronunciation of "mow" in English, and it not the right "ow" here -- here you need to "ow" in the "bow" that you make by bending your head towards the ground. That is a diphthong in English which starts with the "ah" sound (in spite of the spelling).
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  #5  
Old 06-15-2004, 11:36 AM
Algernon Algernon is offline
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This was an ongoing conversation between my wife and I when we spent two wonderful weeks in New Zealand.

As others have said, probably the closest pronunciation representation is MOW-ree (where MOW is pronounced as the English NOW, or COW).

However -- as we listened very closely to the native speakers, there is almost a third syllable, making it come out close to MAH-oh-ree. The long "oh" is barely there though. It was like they said MOW-ree, but the first syllable is drawn out and at the very end of it they change the shape of their mouth to almost have an "oh" come out. Try it yourself and you might experience what I'm trying to describe.
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  #6  
Old 06-15-2004, 11:53 AM
Ezstrete Ezstrete is offline
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words

Quote:
Originally Posted by Giles
I do not doubt that the explanation comes from Maori people. The problem is that in English "ow" has at least two different pronunciations, i.e. the two diofferent ways that you can say "bow". The kind of "bow" that you use with arrows rhymes with the usual pronunciation of "mow" in English, and it not the right "ow" here -- here you need to "ow" in the "bow" that you make by bending your head towards the ground. That is a diphthong in English which starts with the "ah" sound (in spite of the spelling).
In the languages of the islands[micronesia,polynesia melanesia etc.] each vowel is pronounced separately as a syllable..

Therefore Maori is properly pronounced Mah-oh-ri.

Say it really fast and the ah and the oh run together and it becomes mowree.

An example is the island of Oahu-which properly is iS "oh aH hu"---------and Hawaii itself is Hah wah EE EE.

And the W is not pronounced as a V----------unless you're a haoli trying to be a pseudo kanaka.

That makes me go all "Pupuli"
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  #7  
Old 06-15-2004, 01:11 PM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Well, the Maori Language Commission has the "a" in "Maori" as a "long a." Maybe that means different things to different people.

(Waiting for New Zealand to come online...)
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  #8  
Old 06-15-2004, 01:28 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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What's the correct pronunciation of "the"?

My guess is that if you 5 full-blooded Maoris from various different parts of New Zealand together, that they wouldn't agree on what the correct pronuciation is.

When I was in NZ, it sounded to me like people were pronouncing it "MAH-REE", with no noticible emphasis on either syllable.
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  #9  
Old 06-15-2004, 02:07 PM
Cardinal Cardinal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ezstrete
and Hawaii itself is Hah wah EE EE.
I've been wondering for a long time why that was. Thanks.
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  #10  
Old 06-15-2004, 02:19 PM
Tinker Grey Tinker Grey is offline
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It sounds to me as if we are merely defining a diphthong. That is, OW is a sound composed of two vowel sounds -- a diphthong.

In any given dialect, I expect, those two back-to-back vowels would be pronounced anywhere from "OW" to "AH-OO" to "AH".
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  #11  
Old 06-15-2004, 02:55 PM
Fiver Fiver is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinker Grey
It sounds to me as if we are merely defining a diphthong. That is, OW is a sound composed of two vowel sounds -- a diphthong.

In any given dialect, I expect, those two back-to-back vowels would be pronounced anywhere from "OW" to "AH-OO" to "AH".
But in every case the "a" is moreof an "ah" sound than anything else, right? Whereas my friend claimed it was pronounced as in "May" or "ray." Which is clearly contraindicated.
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  #12  
Old 06-15-2004, 04:43 PM
Tinker Grey Tinker Grey is offline
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I would tend to agree, Fiver.

I had hoped to post a link that would back me up on the formation of OW.

I googled "ow diphthong". The first hit suggested that OW was composed of the sound of 'a' as in cat and the 'oo' as in zoo. The other hits (on the first page) were more oriented to teaching school and didn't bother to specify the vowel sounds involved.

I was too lazy to wade through the rest.

My ear agrees with you, but I think we may need a language maven in here.

Tinker
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  #13  
Old 06-15-2004, 04:45 PM
Algernon Algernon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinker Grey
My ear agrees with you, but I think we may need a language maven in here.
What we need is for the Kiwis to wake up and get their butts in here!
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  #14  
Old 06-15-2004, 04:54 PM
Excalibre Excalibre is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiver
But in every case the "a" is moreof an "ah" sound than anything else, right? Whereas my friend claimed it was pronounced as in "May" or "ray." Which is clearly contraindicated.
Well, I wouldn't say your friend is wrong per se. Don't get me wrong, you're definitely more right than him. But I think around here, may-OH-ree is the most common pronunciation.

Oh, and Tinker Grey, if they're in the same syllable it's a diphthong, but if it's supposed to be pronounced as three syllables, it's not.
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  #15  
Old 06-15-2004, 04:59 PM
Tinker Grey Tinker Grey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Algernon
What we need is for the Kiwis to wake up and get their butts in here!
You betcha!

I just found a better link explaining diphthongs. It's from wikipedia and sounds rather authoritative. Apparently there is something called SAMPA which is Speech Assessment Methods Phonetic Alphabet.

The chart to which I linked confirms that at least someone else thinks that OW is composed of a as in father and u as in put.

But as to whether that has anything to do with the word "maori" is still an open question.

Tinker
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  #16  
Old 06-15-2004, 05:07 PM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excalibre
Oh, and Tinker Grey, if they're in the same syllable it's a diphthong, but if it's supposed to be pronounced as three syllables, it's not.
And according to this site it has three syllables:

Quote:
Maori => ma o ri
Of course, it's an oral language, so I imagine the rules are a bit murky. And I'm sure the syllables often get slurred together in speech.
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  #17  
Old 06-15-2004, 05:08 PM
Tinker Grey Tinker Grey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excalibre
Oh, and Tinker Grey, if they're in the same syllable it's a diphthong, but if it's supposed to be pronounced as three syllables, it's not.
Well perhaps. But noone is contesting the third syllable of the word. It seems everyone is content with "ree".

So we are left with potentially two syllables in the first part of the word only, namely "mao".

So the question is, is that portion of the word so articulated as to be two syllables or is it so slurred as to be a diphthong?

I've heard may-oh-ree, Mah-oh-ree, and mow-ree. I prefer the latter.

But, of course, my preference is hardly an indication of correctness, if such a question is even decidable (language being such a fluid thing).

Tinker
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  #18  
Old 06-15-2004, 05:18 PM
Tinker Grey Tinker Grey is offline
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spoke-'s site also give a pronunciation guide which suggests the following

ma - a as in father
o - as in fort
ri - i as in bit

I've gleaned the above from their discussion of the correct spelling of Maori (the a should have a macron), and from the table of vowel sounds for the northern iwi tribe.

They do say 'Adjacent vowels are run together as a diphthong. For example, "kai" (food) rhymes with "high".'

Unfortunately, their example isn't of the adjacent vowels "a" and "o".

Tinker
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  #19  
Old 06-15-2004, 05:24 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spoke-
Well, the Maori Language Commission has the "a" in "Maori" as a "long a." Maybe that means different things to different people.

(Waiting for New Zealand to come online...)
I suspect the long "a" refers not to the English long a, but rather a protracted "ah" sound. In some European languages, they write there is an "a" and an "aa"– the former being short, the latter long. In other languages, you just have to know the difference. For example, those of you familiar with German will recognize the "a" in "Jahr" as long, and the "a" in "Land" as short. The long "a" sounds nothing like the English long "a." Instead, it resembles the "a" in "father."

Linguistically, what you've learned in grammar school as being a long-a sound in English is actually a diphthong. Nobody outside the English speaking world would refer to this sound as a long-a. Once again, linguistically speaking, the "a" in "father" and "cart" are examples of the proper long vowel.

I have no reason to believe the Maori would employ a diphthong in the pronunciation of their own name. It makes no sense. So far as I know, only English speakers make the "AY" sound for "a."
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  #20  
Old 06-15-2004, 05:52 PM
SparrowHawk SparrowHawk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ezstrete
In the languages of the islands[micronesia,polynesia melanesia etc.] each vowel is pronounced separately as a syllable..

Therefore Maori is properly pronounced Mah-oh-ri.

Say it really fast and the ah and the oh run together and it becomes mowree.

An example is the island of Oahu-which properly is iS "oh aH hu"---------and Hawaii itself is Hah wah EE EE.

And the W is not pronounced as a V----------unless you're a haoli trying to be a pseudo kanaka.

That makes me go all "Pupuli"
I think you mean pupule (with the final vowel pronounced "eh" not "ee"). You are correct about pronouncing each vowel and how they do glide together, sounding like a diphthong to English speakers' ears - unless there is an 'okina - that thing like an upside down apostrophe. So Hawai'i wouldn't be pronounced with equal accent on both the "i" syllables, just with emphasis on the last one - Ha/wa/ee ' EE. Also, my understanding is that prounouncing W as V is permissible in some cases (including the word Hawai'i) and not others. You like go Ewa?
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  #21  
Old 06-15-2004, 06:26 PM
Ezstrete Ezstrete is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SparrowHawk
I think you mean pupule (with the final vowel pronounced "eh" not "ee"). You are correct about pronouncing each vowel and how they do glide together, sounding like a diphthong to English speakers' ears - unless there is an 'okina - that thing like an upside down apostrophe. So Hawai'i wouldn't be pronounced with equal accent on both the "i" syllables, just with emphasis on the last one - Ha/wa/ee ' EE. Also, my understanding is that prounouncing W as V is permissible in some cases (including the word Hawai'i) and not others. You like go Ewa?
Like I said"I get all pupule".

II's been over 60 years since I was in the islands--but,for the correction,
Mahalo[sp?[

And may the humuhumunukunukuapuaa pleasure your eye.

OL'EZ

Them kanaka words b'long kanaka man alleesame
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  #22  
Old 06-15-2004, 07:42 PM
Mbossa Mbossa is offline
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OK, in New Zealand, there seem to be two major ways to pronounce "Maori" - the "correct" way and the "common" way. My explanation of the pronunciation assumes a New Zealand accent (probably a false assumption, but it shouldn't lead you too far astray).

The correct pronunciation uses an a as in "father", o as in "fort", and i as in "cheese". Even the most formal speakers pronounce the ao as a diphthong - just practice saying each vowel separately and eventually let them slur into one vowel. Another important point that nobody has mentioned yet is the pronunciation of the r. This should sound like a cross between an English r and a d (maybe even with a bit of an l thrown in there). It's quite hard to explain, but from what I've heard a lot of other languages have a similar r sound (including Japanese).

I have heard a lot of formal situations where "Maori" is pronounced similar to "mouldy" (said quite a bit faster than usual). However, I wouldn't recommend walking up to a Maori person and saying "are you mouldy?"

The common way to pronounce "Maori" is "MOW-ree" (rhyming with cow-knee). In this case, you don't need to worry about the r - just pronounce it like any other r.

Now you're probably wondering when to use the "correct" pronunciation and when to use the "common" pronunciation. The answer is this: it probably doesn't matter. There are some chauvanistic Maori who will not be happy if you pronounce it the "common" way. Similarly, there are some chauvanistic Pakeha (non-Maori) who will look at you funny if you pronounce it the "correct" way. I would not recommend mixing with either group anyway.
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  #23  
Old 06-15-2004, 07:54 PM
jastu jastu is offline
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Every few years the PC pronunciation of Maori seems to change. At the moment, MAH REE is used by the media, a few years ago it was MOLE REE (rhyme with mouldy) before that MOW REE. I have no idea why the PC pronunciation keeps changing.
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  #24  
Old 06-15-2004, 07:57 PM
Tinker Grey Tinker Grey is offline
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Thank you, Mbossa.
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  #25  
Old 06-15-2004, 07:58 PM
Tinker Grey Tinker Grey is offline
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... and jastu!
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  #26  
Old 06-16-2004, 10:35 AM
Fiver Fiver is offline
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I hope, now that actual New Zealanders have weighed in against him, my friend is big enough to admit he was wrong.
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