An Introduction To New Zealand English

An Introduction To New Zealand English
Interestingly, the New Zealand version of the English language is one of the newest varieties of the language on the planet, having only been developed over the last 150 years. The many influences on the language which have given it its present form range from Scottish, southern English, Irish and Australian English with an exotic add-on via the Maori language. Its pronunciation is a softer version of Australian English, sometimes resembling the South African version of the language.

The Maori influence began when settlers realised they had no names for the various indigenous flora and fauna in the country and adapted Maori words where necessary. Until around the 1940s, many early immigrants in remoter areas still spoke with their original accents, with even second-generation migrants retaining the accents of their former homes. Exceptions to this rule were only found in multiracial communities, with the definitive New Zealand accent surfacing in such settlements first.

An independent vocabulary of dialect words soon became established, with most being used in informal or casual speech. For example, a 'crib' or 'bach' is a small seaside holiday home, and a 'dairy' is a deli or convenience store. 'Jandals' are flip-flops; 'togs' are swimwear and a 'judder bar' is an annoying speed bump in a road. A 'chilly bin' is a cool box for picnics and an 'ice block' is an ice lolly. Many more words are based on famous brand names in the same manner as in the UK where a vacuum cleaner is universally called a 'Hoover' after the first major manufacturer of the essential home-cleaning tool.

The use of the English language in New Zealand is also tempered by the Kiwis' love of direct, plain speech, especially in the business world. The UK English manner of indirect speech cuts no ice here, and may even give an impression of untrustworthiness, a cardinal sin in business and personal relationships and best avoided at all costs. Another effect of plain speech is a lack of emotional content, again particularly in business. Over-enthusiasm is frowned upon, as is a sales-style pitch.

Overall, the accepted grammar and British English spelling is strongly related to its UK basis, with similar intonation, although the Kiwi habit of using a rising inflection when answering a question may confuse. Younger people often colloquially use Maori words such as 'kia ora' (hello) and 'kai' (food), and Southland is the only region where a regional accent resembling a 'burr' is heard.