James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Call for simpler te reo on TV

News shows accused of inventing too many new words.

Scotty Morrison, pictured with wife Stacey, is at the forefront of the Maori language revival. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Scotty Morrison, pictured with wife Stacey, is at the forefront of the Maori language revival. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

Native Maori speakers are confused by "new" words on news shows and are having to rely on subtitles to understand broadcasts, says the Maori Language Commission.

Te Haumihiata Mason, the commission's kaitiaki reo (language guardian), said news programmes such as Te Karere and Te Kaea needed to simplify their language because some native speakers were having difficulty understanding the shows.

"The simpler the language, your news broadcast is going to reach and hit home with a lot more people. If they need a dictionary to listen to a news broadcast then it's not working."

Te Karere presenter and Maori language expert Scotty Morrison said he had been confronted about the language sometimes used on the show.

"Right from the start of my time here at Te Karere 11 years ago, I have always received criticism from kaumatua who have stood up on marae and said 'we can't understand all the new terminology you use on your news programme'.

"Some of them have been quite jovial about it and the challenge has been made with a lot of humour, but there have been other moments where it has been more serious with kaumatua making statements like 'the language that you speak is not the Maori we grew up with' and 'those are not Maori words'."

Mr Morrison said the language was evolving and gave the example of 'manapori', a fusion of mana (power) and hapori (community) to create a new word meaning democracy.

He said such words were created by Te Taura Whiri, the Maori Language Commission, to address new concepts, but some were causing problems for kaumatua, along with archaic words revived in language courses like Te Panekiretanga o te Reo for highly-advanced language speakers.

"All of these words, whether contemporary or ancient, have a whakapapa [genealogy] and are easily found in a dictionary. In my opinion that gives those words legitimacy in terms of everyday usage in the appropriate context."

Maori Television's general manager of news and current affairs, Julian Wilcox, said Te Kaea received feedback from an independent linguist who reviewed the show's language quality and subtitling.

He said some of its older audience said there were 'new' words being used in reports that they didn't understand.

"My contention would be that some of these words are not 'new'. Rather, they are classical terms that have been reinvigorated and applied, where appropriate, to modern day concepts."

"This is not specific to Te Kaea, or to Maori Television. It is a convention that exists in Maori Language revitalisation efforts and plays a core role in extending corpus."

- NZ Herald

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