New Zealand English
The English language was established in New Zealand by colonists during the 19th century. It is one of "the newest native-speaker variet[ies] of the English language in existence, a variety which has developed and become distinctive only in the last 150 years". The most distinctive influences on New Zealand English have come from Australian English, English in southern England, Irish English, Scottish English, the prestige Received Pronunciation, and Māori. New Zealand English is similar to Australian English in pronunciation, with some key differences. One of the most prominent differences is the realisation of /ɪ/: in New Zealand English, as in some Scots and South African varieties, this is pronounced as [ɘ].
- Dictionaries 1
- Historical development 2
- Short front vowels 3.1.1
- Conditioned mergers 3.1.2
- Other vowels 3.1.3
- Other consonants 3.2.1
- Other features 3.3
- Vowels 3.1
- Differences from Australian English 4.1
- Usage 5
Māori influence 6
- Pronunciation of Māori place names 6.1
- Dialects 7
- Spelling 8
- See also 9
- Notes 10
- Bibliography 11
- External links 12
The first comprehensive dictionary dedicated to New Zealand English was probably the Heinemann New Zealand Dictionary, published in 1979. Edited by Harry Orsman, it is a 1,300-page book, with information relating to the usage and pronunciation of terms that were widely accepted throughout the English-speaking world and those peculiar to New Zealand. It includes a one-page list of the approximate date of entry into common parlance of many terms found in New Zealand English but not elsewhere, such as "haka" (1827), "Boohai" (1920), and "bach" (1905).
In 1997, Oxford University Press produced the The Dictionary of New Zealand English, which it claimed was based on over 40 years of research. This research started with Orsman's 1951 thesis and continued with his editing this dictionary. To assist with and maintain this work, the New Zealand Dictionary Centre was founded in 1997. It has published several more dictionaries of New Zealand English, culminating in The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary in 2004.
A more light-hearted look at English as spoken in New Zealand, A Personal Kiwi-Yankee Dictionary, was written by the American-born University of Otago psychology lecturer Louis Leland in 1980. This slim volume lists many of the potentially confusing and/or misleading terms for Americans visiting or emigrating to New Zealand. A second edition was published in 1990.
A distinct New Zealand variant of the English language has been in existence since at least 1912, when Frank Arthur Swinnerton described it as a "carefully modulated murmur", though its history probably goes back further than that. From the beginning of the British settlement on the islands, a new dialect began to form by adopting Māori words to describe the different flora and fauna of New Zealand, for which English did not have any words of its own.
Audio recordings from the 1940s of very old New Zealanders captured the speech of those born to the first generation of settlers in New Zealand, which means linguists can hear the actual origin of the accent. For example, a recording of 97-year-old Mrs Hannah Cross, who was born in New Zealand in 1851 and lived there her whole life, shows she had a Scottish accent. Even some second generation New Zealanders did not have a noticeable "New Zealand accent", such as Mr Ernie Bissett, who was born in Kaitangata in 1894 and lived in New Zealand his entire life. But people growing up in the mining town of Arrowtown, where there was a mixture of accents, developed a recognisable New Zealand accent, such as Annie Hamilton, whose parents arrived there in 1862. The children growing up exposed to different accents picked up different features of these, but in their children, the second generation, there is a unification towards the "foundation accent".
Not all New Zealanders have the same accent, as the level of cultivation (i.e. the extremity) of every speaker's accent differs. Some speakers may have a very cultivated accent, in which case they will speak much like the phonology dedcribed in this section. Other speakers, however, may have a quite broad accent, meaning they shall sound less like the phonology described. The phonology in this section is of a cultivated speaker of New Zealand English and does not reflect how all New Zealanders sound.
The vowels of New Zealand English are similar to that of other non-rhotic dialects such as Australian English and RP, but with some distinct variations, which are indicated by the transcriptions for New Zealand vowels in the tables below:
FLEECE / HAPPY
(iː / i)
KIT / ROSES / COMMA / LETTER
(ɪ / ɨ / ə / ər)
THOUGHT / NORTH / FORCE
(ɔː / ɔr / ɔər)
PALM / BATH / START
(ɑː / ɑː / ɑr)
LOT / CLOTH
|IPA (NZ)||IPA ()||Keyword|
However, vowel charts show that /iː ɒ ɑe ɐʉ æo/ aren't accurate transcriptions, and /ɘi ɔ ɐe ɑɵ æɔ/ approximate the actual pronunciation closer.
Short front vowels
- In New Zealand English the short-i of KIT /ɪ/ is a central vowel not phonologically distinct from schwa /ə/, the vowel in unstressed "the", both of which are a close-mid central unrounded vowel /ɘ/. It thus contrasts sharply with the /i/ vowel heard in Australia. Recent acoustic studies featuring both Australian and New Zealand voices show the accents were more similar before the Second World War and the KIT vowel has undergone rapid centralisation in New Zealand English. Because of this difference in pronunciation, some New Zealanders claim Australians say "feesh and cheeps" for fish and chips while some Australians counter that New Zealanders say "fush and chups".
- Like South African English, Australian and some Southern American dialects, the DRESS vowel /ɛ/ has moved to become a close-mid vowel [e], although the New Zealand /e/ is closer to [ɪ]. This was played for laughs in the American TV series Flight of the Conchords, where the character Bret's name was often pronounced as "Brit", leading to confusion. In broader uses, especially in the South Island, the vowel sound can be two-syllabled, as with broad Southern American, so that words like "pen" sound like "pee-yin" and "pest" becomes "pee-yist".
- The NEAR /ɪə/ and SQUARE /eə/ vowels are increasingly being merged, so that here rhymes with there; and bear and beer, and rarely and really are homophones. This is the "most obvious vowel change taking place" in New Zealand English. There is some debate as to the quality of the merged vowel, but the consensus appears to be that it is towards a close variant, [iə].
- Before /l/, the vowels /iː/ and /ɪə/ (as in reel vs real), as well as /ɒ/ and /oʊ/ (doll vs dole), and sometimes /ʊ/ and /uː/ (pull vs pool), /ɛ/ and /æ/ (Ellen vs Alan) and /ʊ/ and /ɪ/ (full vs fill) may be merged.
- The most obvious vowel shift in New Zealand English from other kinds is the TRAP vowel /æ/ which is usually realised as a slightly raised [æ] in the majority of New Zealanders. In Broader varieties it is often raised to [ɛ], so that /æ/ encroaches on /ɛ/ for some speakers. This vowel shift is shared by South African English speakers and is one of the main reasons American English speakers may mistake New Zealanders for South Africans. In the phrase "the cat sat on the mat" this is heard by the rest of the English speaking world as "the ket set on the met". A "laptop" is heard by non-New Zealanders as "leptop" and a "tablet" as a "teblet."
- The NURSE vowel /ɜr/ is rounded and often fronted in the region of [ɵː~œː~øː].
- The THOUGHT vowel /ɔː/ is a close-mid back rounded vowel [oː], as is in Australian and South African English. Some American English dialects use [oː] for the GOAT diphthong /oʊ/ (NzE: /ɐʉ/), causing New Zealand English Auckland and American English Oakland to become near homophones. The Oakland-Auckland similarity featured in a 1992 episode of American sitcom Full House, where characters Stephanie and Michelle Tanner stowaway on a plane which they believe is flying from San Francisco to nearby Oakland, and end up on a fourteen-hour flight to Auckland instead. This followed an incident in 1985 when an Oakland-bound American passenger accidentally ended up on a flight to Auckland after misunderstanding several Air New Zealand flight attendants at Los Angeles International Airport.
- New Zealand English is mostly non-rhotic (with linking and intrusive R), except for speakers with the so-called Southland burr, a semi-rhotic, Scottish-influenced dialect heard principally in Southland and parts of Otago. Among r-less speakers, however, non-prevocalic /r/ is sometimes pronounced in a few words, including Ireland, merely, err, and the name of the letter R.
- /l/ is dark in all positions, and is often vocalised in the syllable coda. This varies in different regions and between different socio-economic groups; the younger, lower social class speakers vocalise /l/ most of the time.
- New Zealand English has the wine-whine merger; thus the distinction between /w/ as in witch and /ʍ/ as in which has disappeared except in the speech of older speakers.
- The intervocalic /t/ may be flapped.
- New Zealand English has the trap–bath split: words like dance, chance, plant and grant are pronounced with an /ɑː/ sound, as in Southern England and South Australia. Additionally, the /ɑː/ vowel is identical to Australian English in words such as dark, card, start, etc.
- Some New Zealand speakers have the salary–celery merger and would thus pronounce /ɛl/ as /æl/. For instance, elephant would be pronounced , cell and sell , and elegy , being homophonous with allergy. Other speakers, however, do make a distinction between /ɛl/ and /æl/.
- As in Australian English, some New Zealanders pronounce past participles such as grown, thrown and mown with two syllables, the latter containing a schwa /-əʊ.ən/ not found in other accents. By contrast, groan, throne and moan are all unaffected, meaning these word pairs can be distinguished by ear.
- The trans- prefix is commonly pronounced . This produces mixed pronunciation of the as in words like transplant () whereas in Northern (but not Southern) British English the same vowel is used in both syllables (/trænsˈplænt/ or /transˈplant/).
- The name of the letter H is almost always , as in North America, and almost never in the aspirated of Hiberno-English, which originated in the UK. (The pronunciation of h is now widespread in the United Kingdom, being used by approximately 24% of British people born since 1982.)
- The name of the letter Z is almost universally the Anglo-European zed.
- The word foyer is pronounced , as in Australian English, rather than as in British English.
- The word with is almost always pronounced , though may be found in some minority groups.
- Like in the UK, the word and combining form graph is pronounced both and in New Zealand.
- The word data is often pronounced .
There are a number of dialectal words and phrases used in New Zealand English. These are mostly informal terms that are more common in casual speech. A considerable number of loan words have also been taken from the Maori language (see the separate section, below).
New Zealand adopted decimal currency in the 1960s and the metric system in the 1970s. Despite this, several imperial measures are still widely encountered and usually understood, such as feet and inches for a person's height, pounds and ounces for an infant's birth weight, and in colloquial terms such as referring to drinks in pints. The word spud for ''potato'', now common throughout the English-speaking world, originated in New Zealand English.
As with Australian English, but in contrast to most other forms of the language, some speakers of New Zealand English use both the terms bath and bathe as verbs, with bath used as a transitive verb (e.g. I will bath the dog), and bathe used predominantly, but not exclusively, as an intransitive verb (e.g. Did you bathe?).
Both the words amongst and among are used, as in British English. The same is true for two other pairs, whilst & while and amidst & amid.
Differences from Australian English
Many of these relate to words used to refer to common items, often based on which major brands become eponyms.
|a portable telephone|
|chilly bin||Esky[note 2]||cooler|
|shack||a small, often very modest holiday property, often at the seaside|
|convenience store, a small store selling mainly food|
|duvet||Doona[note 2]||a continental quilt, a thick covering for a bed|
Icy Pole[note 2]
|an ice pop, a popsicle, an ice lolly, a frozen water-based snack|
|candy floss||fairy floss||cotton candy|
|cattle grid||a device for preventing cattle wandering on country roads|
judder bar[note 5]
speed hump[note 6]
|a raised section of road used to deter excessive speed|
|a fountain designed to provide drinking water|
|no exit||no through road||signage for a road with a dead end, a cul-de-sac|
swimming costume[note 7]
budgie smugglers[note 8]
|swimwear, swimming costumes, or other clothes designed to be worn in water|
Liquid Paper[note 2]
|correction fluid, a fluid applied to paper that covers up ink below it when dried, after which it can be written over|
|a marker pen|
|travel through open or (more often) forested areas on foot|
- Some New Zealanders will often reply to a question with a statement spoken with a rising intonation at the end. This often has the effect of making their statement sound like another question. There is enough awareness of this that it is seen in exaggerated form in comedy parody of New Zealanders. This rising intonation can also be heard at the end of statements, which are not in response to a question but to which the speaker wishes to add emphasis. High rising terminals are also heard in Australia and are more common.
- In informal speech, some New Zealanders use the third person feminine she in place of the third person neuter it as the subject of a sentence, especially when the subject is the first word of the sentence. The most common use of this is in the phrase "She'll be right" meaning either "It will be okay" or "It is close enough to what is required". This is similar to Australian English.
The dominant influence of Māori on New Zealand English is lexical. A 1999 estimate based on the Wellington corpora of written and spoken New Zealand English put the proportion of words of Māori origin at approximately 0.6%, mostly place and personal names.
The everyday use of Maori words, usually colloquial, occurs most prominently among youth, young adults and Maori populations. Examples include words like kia ora ("hello"), or kai ("food") which almost all New Zealanders know.
Māori is ever present and has a significant conceptual influence in the legislature, government, and community agencies (e.g. health and education), where legislation requires that proceedings and documents be translated into Māori (under certain circumstances, and when requested). Political discussion and analysis of issues of sovereignty, environmental management, health, and social well-being thus rely on Māori at least in part. Māori as a spoken language is particularly important wherever community consultation occurs.
Pronunciation of Māori place names
The pronunciation of many Māori place names was anglicised for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but since the 1980s increased consciousness of the Māori language has led to a shift towards using a Māori pronunciation. The anglicisations have persisted most among residents of the towns in question, so it has become something of a shibboleth, with correct Māori pronunciation marking someone as non-local.
|Placename||English pronunciation||Te Reo Māori||Maori pronunciation|
|Te Awamutu||tee-awa-moot or||te a-wa-mu-tu||te ɑ.wɑ.'mu.tu|
|Waikouaiti||wacker-wite or weka-what||wai-kou-ai-ti||'wai.kou.'ɑːi.ti|
|Cape Reinga||re-i-nga||'keɪp ɾeɪ.'ɪŋ.ə|
|Te Kauwhata||tee-ka-wotta||te kau-fa-ta||te kɑu.ɸɑ.tɑ|
Some anglicised names are colloquially shortened, for example, "coke" for Kohukohu, "the Rapa" for the Wairarapa, "Kura" for Papakura, "Papatoe" (pronounced Papatowie) for Papatoetoe, "Otahu" for Otahuhu, "Paraparam" or "Pram" for Paraparaumu, "the Naki" for Taranaki, "Cow-cop" for Kaukapakapa and "Pie-cock" for Paekakariki.
There is some confusion between these shortenings, especially in the southern South Island, and the natural variations of the southern dialect of Māori. Not only does this dialect sometimes feature apocope, but consonants also vary slightly from standard Māori. To compound matters, names were often initially transcribed by Scottish settlers, rather than the predominantly English settlers of other parts of the country; as such further alterations are not uncommon. Thus, while Lake Wakatipu is sometimes referred to as "Wakatip", Oamaru and "Om-a-roo", and Waiwera South as "Wy-vra", these differences may be as much caused by dialect differences – either in Māori or in the English used during transcription – as by laziness in anglicisation.
Recognisable regional variations are slight, with the exception of Southland, where the "Southland burr" (see above) is heard. It is also common in the southern part of neighbouring Otago. This southern area formed a traditional repository of immigration from Scotland (see Dunedin). Several words and phrases common in Scots or Scottish English persist in this area: examples include the use of wee to mean "small", and phrases such as to do the messages meaning "to go shopping". Taranaki has also been said to have a minor regional accent, possibly due to the high number of immigrants from the South-West of England, however this becoming less pronounced.
Some Māori have an accent distinct from the general New Zealand accent, tending to use Māori words more frequently. Bro'Town was a TV programme that exaggerated Māori, Polynesian, and other accents. Linguists recognise two main New Zealand accents, denoted "Pākehā English" and "Māori English"; with the latter strongly influenced by syllable-timed Māori speech patterns. Pākehā English is beginning to adopt similar rhythms, distinguishing it from other stress-timed English accents.
- Where there is a difference between British and US spelling (such as cancelling/canceling and jewellery/jewelry), the British spelling is almost universally used. With -our words like colour/color or behaviour/behavior the spelling of -our is always used.
- New Zealand English retains the distinctions between program ("computer heuristic") and programme ("schedule, broadcast show"), disk ("information storage device") and disc ("flat circular object"), and analog (as in analog stick) and analogue (all other senses) found in British English.
- It is usual to form past tenses and past participles of certain verbs with -t and not -ed in New Zealand English. For example, learn becomes learnt, boil becomes boilt, burn becomes burnt, dream becomes dreamt (), and lean becomes leant (). These verb forms are pronounced with a final unvoiced t sound, meaning boilt is pronounced not . This contrasts with American English, where -ed is far commoner and is pronounced /d/ (e.g. dwelled () is an American form of dwelt ()). Learned, the adjective meaning "wise", is universally spelt thus and pronounced as two syllables. The past tense and past participle of earn is earned universally, though it may be pronounced ending with a /t/ sound.
- Words with the digraphs ae and oe in British English are spelt as such in New Zealand English (e.g. faeces not feces) and not with just e like in American English. In British English, some of these words are starting to be spelt oftener with just e rather than ae or oe; in New Zealand English, the forms with just e are much more commonly used in these cases. For example, encyclopaedia, chamaeleon, hyaena, and homoeopathy would be spelt encyclopedia, chameleon, hyena, and homeopathy respectively.
- Gram, the unit of mass, is commonly spelt as such and not gramme, which is somewhat found in British English. The same holds true for the word's derivates (e.g. kilogram is commoner than kilogramme).
- In hyperbolic statements, the spellings of ton and tons are commonly used (e.g. I have tons of friends and I feel tons better), despite the metric system with its tonne having been introduced in the 1970s.
- In words that may be spelt with either an -ise or an -ize suffix (such as organise/organize) New Zealand English, like Australian English, mainly prefers -ise. This contrasts with American English, where -ize is generally preferred, and British English, where -ise is also generally preferred but by some, including the Oxford Dictionary, -ize is preferred. In New Zealand it is not wrong to use either spelling.
- New Zealand favours fiord over fjord, unlike most other English-speaking countries, although fjord is not unseen.
- When spelling words with macrons borrowed from Maori, New Zealand English can either spell them with macrons or without (e.g. Maori and Māori are both accepted spellings). In informal writing, macrons are not usually kept. New Zealand tends to spell these words with macrons more often than other countries and there is a growing tendency to do so.
- Australian English
- British English
- Culture of New Zealand
- New Zealand humour
- Regional accents of English
en-NZis the language code for New Zealand English , as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).
- Hay, J., Macglagan, M., & Gordon, E. (2008). New Zealand English. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.
- Trudgill, P., Gordon, E., Lewis, G., & Maclagan, M. (2000). Determinism in new-dialect formation and the genesis of New Zealand English. Journal of Linguistics, 36(2), p. 300).
- Bayard, Donn (2000). "New Zealand English: Origins, Relationships, and Prospects". Moderna Språk (Sweden: Linnaeus University) 94 (1): 8–14.
- The Story of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil. BBC Publications and Faber and Faber: London, 1986.
- "Lingua Franca - 19/03/2005: The New Zealand Accent : 1". Abc.net.au. 2005-03-19. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
- "Lingua Franca - 26/03/2005: The New Zealand Accent : 2". Abc.net.au. 2005-03-26. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
- Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009a).
- Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009b).
- Bauer et al. (2007), p. 99.
- Bauer et al. (2007), p. 98–100.
- This is also pronounced /eə/, especially amongst some young speakers with very cultivated accents.
- Many words that are pronounced with /ʊə/ in traditional RP are often pronounced with /oː/ in New Zealand English.
- Evans, Zoë; Watson, Catherine I. (2004). "An acoustic comparison of Australian and New Zealand English vowel change".
- Crystal (2003), p. 354.
- Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 587 and 611.
- Trudgill & Hannah (2002), pp. 23-24.
- Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 582, 592, 610.
- Trudgill & Hannah (2002), p. 24.
- Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 589f.
- Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 582, 591.
- Baker, Bob (3 April 1985). "Oakland or Auckland? It's a Long Way Home After Europe Vacation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- "Other forms of variation in New Zealand English". Te Kete Ipurangi. Ministry of Education. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
- Kortmann et al. (2004), p. 605.
- Kortmann et al. (2004), p. 594.
- Kortmann et al. (2004), p. 611.
- Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 606 and 609.
- John C Wells, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, page 360, Pearson, Harlow, 2008
- "When is a pint not a pint? ", Ministry of Consumer Affairs
- "Is a pint really a pint in Wellington? ", 06/09/2012, The Wellingtonian
- Dignan, J. R. E.; O'Shea, R. P. (1995 title = Human use of metric measures of length). New Zealand Journal of Psychology 24: 21–25.
- Entry Spud on Etymonline
- Kate Nixon (3 January 2011). "Queensland beach shack". Homes.ninemsn.com.au. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- judder bar. Collins English Dictionary — Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 3 September 2012 from CollinsDictionary.com website:http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/judder-bar
- Crystal (2003), p. 355.
- Kennedy, Graham & Shinji Yamazaki 1999. The Influence of Maori on the New Zealand English Lexicon. In John M. Kirk (ed), Corpora Galore: Analyses and Techniques in Describing English. Amsterdam: Rodopi: 33-44
- "Identifying Maori English and Pakeha English from Suprasegmental Cues: A Study Based on Speech Resynthesis", Szakay, Anita
- Jeanette King on the influence of Māori pronunciation on New Zealand English, 6/2/2010.
- Morel, Mary. "American and Australian spelling". Online Grammar. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
- The fiord spelling was the normal one in English until the early 1920s, and is preserved in many place names worldwide. In New Zealand it is used in Fiordland, a rugged region in the south-west.
- Bartlett, Christopher (1992), "Regional variation in New Zealand English: the case of Southland", New Zealand English Newsletter 6: 5–15
- Bauer, Laurie; Warren, Paul; Bardsley, Dianne; Kennedy, Marianna; Major, George (2007), "New Zealand English",
- Cryer, Max (2002). Curious Kiwi Words. Auckland: HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd.
- Crystal, David (2003), The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press
- Deverson, Tony, and Graeme Kennedy (eds.) (2005). The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
- Grant, L.E., and Devlin, G.A. (eds.) (1999). In other words: A dictionary of expressions used in New Zealand. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.
- Kortmann, Bernd; Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive, eds. (2004), A handbook of varieties of English, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter
- Leland, Louis S., jr. (1980). A personal Kiwi-Yankee dictionary. Dunedin: John McIndoe Ltd.
- Mannell, Robert; Cox, Felicity; Harrington, Jonathan (2009a), An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology, Macquarie University
- Mannell, Robert; Cox, Felicity; Harrington, Jonathan (2009b), An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology, Macquarie University
- Orsman, H.W., (ed.) (1997). The Dictionary of New Zealand English: a dictionary of New Zealandisms on historical principles. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-558380-9.
- Orsman, H.W., (ed.) (1979). Heinemann New Zealand dictionary. Auckland: Heinemann Educational Books (NZ) Ltd.
- New Zealand Slang
- Origins of New Zealand English
- The Origins of New Zealand English Project at the University of Canterbury
New Zealand Dictionary Centre
- New Zealand English in the 21st century
- Kiwi Words & Phrases
- One News: Kiwi Accent
- New Zild - The Story of New Zealand English