Lexical and phonetic features of early New Zealand English

Acquaintance with the national-cultural features of the English language in New Zealand. General characteristics of the main lexical and phonetic innovations that have arisen on the basis of the dialects of Great Britain, as well as the Maori language.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
Вид статья
Язык английский
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Lexical and phonetic features of early New Zealand English

The sociolinguistic status of English in New Zealand can be defined as New Zealand national variant of the English language, as it is the official language of the country; it is spoken by the absolute number of residents of the country; it has a national standard; it performs the full scope of public functions; it has national and cultural specificity.

Functioning of language units in New Zealand is characterized by its national-cultural identity, in particular, New Zealand English has the following types of language variability: a) phonetic, b) lexical.

Among the first European discoverers of New Zealand was the Dutchman A. Tasman. In December 1642, he discovered the island, naming it Stateen Landt (later Nieuw Zeeland from the Dutch language - new sea-land). The indigenous people of the country are the Maori who named the country “Aotearoa” (the land of the long white clouds - the country of long white clouds) [1, с. 20].

The emergence of the English language in New Zealand referred to 1769, when the coast of New Zealand was reached by J. Cook. The Maori called the sailors of the British ship “tangata tipua”, which meant `a stranger'. The word “New Zealander” was used to refer to the indigenous inhabitants - the Maori. Today, a word “New Zealander” is used with respect to both the Maori and English-speaking ethnic group in New Zealand. According to the concept of British colonial policy, New Zealand had favorable climatic conditions for European settlements and necessary resources to strengthen the economic power of Britain [2, p. 33].

One of the preconditions for the appearance of the English language in New Zealand was its original location as the Australian colony of New South Wales, where two thousand Europeans lived in 1839.

Specific features of early New Zealand English were formed in the early twentieth century. Basic phonetic and lexical innovations in New Zealand English appeared on the basis of British dialects and the Maori language, the interaction of which formed New Zealand English national literary norms. In the years of colonization the pronunciation of New Zealanders was perceived as errors and vulgarisms. One of the most common and “insidious vulgarisms” of the New Zealand speech was the use of unstressed [i] as [?]: it is [it iz] was pronounced as [?t ?z]; the realization of the diphthongs [ai] as [ei] and [ei] as [ai]: lady [leidi] was pronounced [laidi], days [deiz] as [daiz], type [taip] - [teip], plate [pleit] - [plait], home [hа?m] - [ha?m], take [teik] - [taik], how [ha?] - [hae?], cake [keik] - [kaik], town [ta?n] - [te??n], bay [bei] - [bai], round [ra?nd] was pronounced as [r???nd], diphthongization [i] in the words of me [mi] as [m?i] [4, p. 56].

Receiving dominion status in 1907, an effective state language policy aimed at the development and strengthening of their national-cultural specificity, a high number of English-speaking population born in New Zealand, the development of mass media contributed to the formation and consolidation of national literary norms and the growth of its prestige. In 1890 the Association of indigenous people of New Zealand was founded [1, c. 40].

The rapid influx of settlers from the British Empire associated with the activities of New Zealand companies and intensification of extraction of gold in Otago in 1861 increased the proportion of the English population in New Zealand. According to the testimony of the records of the colonial government, linguists and historians, New Zealand was visited by the representatives of those counties in England: Kent, Cornwall and London. Naturally, they brought their regional features of the use of linguistic units.

In 1861 the gold rush in Otago and Westland had a significant impact on the population growth rate, an economic development and food potential of New Zealand. This period was marked by the extension of trade-economic ties with Britain, Australia, France and the United States. Immigration had an impact on the country's economy and set the stage for the formation of labour reserves. Naturally, immigrants brought their language features into the English language of New Zealand: vocalization [t] in the intervocalic position is usual in the US, the South-Eastern counties of England (Hampshire, Dorset); loss of palatal approximant [j] (Y-dropping) in the position after the alveolar consonants in the words new [nju:], dew [dju:], tune [tju:n] also found in dialects of England (North Kent, North-West Warwickshire, East Berkshire) and the USA; replacement [?] to [f] and [р] to the phoneme [v] is usual in the SouthEastern counties of England (Kent, Essex, Buckinghamshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Hertfodshire); the use of the first component of the diphthong [ai] of a more open character is the most frequent in the speech of the inhabitants of London, the South-Eastern counties of England (Cornwall, Devon, Suffolk and North-East Scotland);

the vocalization of [l] is observed in the London dialect, Estuary dialect of South East England (Estuary English), in New York and Philadelphia in the United States [2, p. 40].

In general, the lexis of New Zealand English can be divided into three layers: the first includes lexical items that are common to all English-speaking countries; the second lexical layer partially or completely changed its features.

The third lexical layer is characteristic only of New Zealand English [Ibidem, p. 75].

The most productive methods of enrichment lexical system of the English language in New Zealand are the borrowing of dialect vocabulary of Great Britain, from the Maori and Australian English.

The dialect vocabulary of the UK is a source of enriching the vocabulary of New Zealand English. For example, the word ringer `something of the highest quality' derived from the Yorkshire dialect. In New Zealand it means the fastest herder of cattle; a bush lawyer (Kent dialect) - a man supposedly versed in the law; trimmer, or the highest quality; wee (Scottish dialect) - little; rouse (Scottish dialect) - to become angry; squiz (Devonshire dialect) - to consider, examine [3, p. 30].

In contemporary New Zealand English many words (cobber 'mate', skite 'vain man', bloke 'young man', tucker 'food', swag 'booty thief') derived from British dialect words: to be cobbers with 'to be friends with anyone'; to cobber up with 'be friends', 'friends'; cobbery 'friendly'; skiting 'bragging'; skitey 'boastful'; to skite up `to exaggerate to overstate someone's quality'; blokery `a male'; blokess `a friend'; blokishness `a typical male behaviour and characteristics'; tuckertime `mealtime'; tuckerless `without food'; swaggie `a tramp'; swagger `a wanderer in search of work, a person without permanent residence'; a swag of `a large quantity of something'; to pack one's swag `to leave'; to hoist one's swag `to go on foot' [Ibidem, p. 74].

An early lexical borrowing from the Maori language belongs to 1840-1880. According to lexicographical sources of New Zealand, in the period 1880-1970 the process of the lexical borrowing from Maori in this period was insignificant. Last decades were characterized by numerous borrowings from the Maori language in connection with the socio-economic changes in New Zealand aimed at the revival of the language and culture of Maori in 1980s of the XX century. For example, New Zealand bilingual dictionary by P. M. Ryan (1995) contains 20 thousand words from the Maori language with English translation.

A borrowing from the Maori language is an important feature of national and cultural identity of the New Zealand English lexis. Borrowings from the Maori language are used to refer to the endemic plants, animals and fish, for example, kiwi `a kiwi bird', kokako `the new Zealand starling', kea `kea parrot', kakapo `an owl parrot', takahe `a flightless bird', hoiho `a yellow-eyed penguin hoiho', kakariki `a bouncing parrot' - a kind of bird; hapuku `sea fish', moki `fish-trumpeter moki', manuka `a tea tree', totara `mahogany totara', nikau `New Zealand species of palm trees', katipo `a poisonous spider'; weta `a giant wingless grasshopper weta'; tuatara `the oldest terrestrial vertebrate animal' [2, p. 140].

Among the specific features of New Zealand English at the lexical and semantic level are the words and expressions formed by addition of general base of the lexemes and tokens of the Maori language, for example: mairoa dopiness - a disease of sheep caused by a lack of lime in the soil; waihi disease - a disease of cattle due to lack of phosphate fertilizers in the soil; kea gun - a gun for hunting on wild kea parrots; taranaki gate - the iron gate from wire and metal rods; kauri snail - a giant snail cowrie; puriri moth - a huge moth puriri [3, p. 89].

The large linguistic and cultural potential of the toponymic system of New Zealand English is closely related to the ethnic Maori culture. In the process of formation of toponyms the root morpheme from the Maori language is used such as: roto - lake; wai - water; hau - wind; poto - short; ara - road; papa - flat; puke - hill; awa - river; iti - small; manga - stream; maunga - mountain. According to estimates of linguists 0.9% of all the toponymic system is borrowed from the Maori language, for example: Timaru, Takapuna, Rotorua, Rangitoto, Wanganui, Whangarei, Waikato, Waiapu, Waikohu, Opotiki [2, p. 65].

It has been found that on the phonetic level New Zealand national literary norms are not so different from the norms of British pronunciation standard. Specifics of pronunciation of New Zealanders can be explained by the fact that the colonialists came to New Zealand from different regions of England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia. Many families living in New Zealand are their direct descendants. One of the significant influences on the development of New Zealand English has been contact with the Maori language and with Maori cultural traditions. This is reflected in the presence of a large number of Maori words in common use in New Zealand English. Despite its relatively short history in New Zealand, English has progressed from being a variety comprising a mixture of British English dialects to being an autonomous variety of its own. It is now firmly established as the dominant and majority language spoken in New Zealand with its own specific characteristics.

english language dialect


1.Малаховский К. В. История Новой Зеландии. М.: Наука, 1981. 236 с.

2.Gordon E., Hay J., Maclagan M., Cambell L., Sudbury M., Trudgill P. New Zealand English. Its origin and evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 370 p.

3.Orsman H. W. A Dictionary of New Zealand English: A Dictionary of New Zealandisms on Historical Principles. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1997. 965 p.

4.Wall A. New Zealand English: A guide to correct pronunciation of English with special reference to New Zealand conditions and problems. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1938. 111 p.

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