New Zealand English (NZE) is a language whose vocabulary has been strongly influenced by British, Scottish and Irish but what makes it uniquely different from any other English variety is the presence of words in te reo maori, i.e. the Maori language (Bell & Kuiper, 2000). The first borrowings from Maori came into NZE when the country was colonized (at the end of the 18th century): most of them were words for plants and animals, some were cultural terms. Since then, a rather large number of Maori words have found their way both in spoken and written NZE (Kennedy, 2001). This paper concerns present-day written NZE and is motivated by two general observations: 1) Maori terms can be found in New Zealand books and newspapers without any translation into English, indicating that most New Zealanders know – or allegedly know – what they mean; 2) most of them are used exclusively in connection with Maori culture, which points at their no more than partial integration into NZE (Trudgill & Hannah, 2002). For the present study five Maori words have been selected, namely aroha (‘love’), mana (‘power’), marae (‘meeting ground’), tapu (‘taboo’), and whakapapa (‘genealogy’), on the basis of their frequency of occurrence in NZE and their significance in terms of cultural identity. The analysis (both quantitative and qualitative) will be carried out working on a corpus of on-line NZ newspapers and magazines published in the last three years in order to investigate the five Maori words in their contexts of use. The study aims at pointing out: a)what has been lost of the original meanings, b) which new meanings have been added, c) the extent to which the use of these words contributes to the maintenance and/or creation of cultural stereotypes and d)the extent to which the use of these words can be taken as a reflection of assimilationist policies.
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