Māori English on the background of language contact in Aotearoa/New Zealand
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New Zealand or Aotearoa (‘the long white cloud’) has been home to a particular situation of contact between two peoples ever since James Cook discovered the islands in the South Pacific and encountered the indigenous Māori population. Contact between the Polynesian people and the mainly British settlers has generated a history of conflict moulding the socio-cultural and linguistic landscape of what has become the nation of New Zealand. In literature, indigenous writers such as Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace have created acclaimed portrayals of Māori life in postcolonial New Zealand. Their stories reflect a relation between the indigenous language Te Reo Māori and English, which exemplifies Hans Peter Nelde’s observation (1997) that language contact is tantamount to language conflict. Thus, in sociolinguistic terms, the evolving relation of linguistic contact and conflict has given rise to diverse instantiations of influence between the Māori language and English up until today. It is the intention of this paper to describe the different major scenarios of language contact and focus on the notion of Māori English, which plays a controversial role in this discussion. In particular, the article aims to reframe the understanding of the term from a purely descriptive label for a socio- and ethnolect to a variety of English spoken in New Zealand that reverberates a diverse and unique experience and world view representative of the bicultural and bilingual reality of parts of the Māori people today.