Chur and whenua among latest additions to Oxford Dictionary

A row of Oxford English dictionaries in a school classroom.

Te reo Māori words and Kiwi slang like chur will now be added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as a part of a ‘Kiwi update’ totalling 47 words.

The words being added include a number of te reo phases, as well as some classic New Zealand-English slang.

It comes as linguists at the OED notice how te reo and English become more and more intertwined through conversations in Aotearoa.

The words were decided on after editors scoured newspapers, political speeches and even Twitter.

Phrases like chur, flat stick (to do something quickly), Kiwiness, hooning and korero will all be featured in the dictionary this year - placing New Zealand’s mark in the pages of the language.

While some words are a Kiwi spin on English ones, the vast majority are of Māori origin and are used by Kiwis in everyday conversation.

Words that relate to belonging, like whenua (which will be the oldest te reo word added), rohe, kaupapa and iwi, will be added to the dictionary - joining the list of te reo words already in there.

Several phrases that relate to Māori sovereignty have also been included, including rangatiratanga (self-determination and the right of Māori people to rule themselves), tino rangatiratanga (right to self-governance and to political control by Māori people over Māori affairs) and kaitiaki (guardian or steward, especially of the natural resources of an environment or place).

Traditional Māori practices have also received the nod, such as rāhui, moko kauae, pōwhiri, and koha.

They're being included in the English dictionary is because the vast majority are used interchangeably with other English language phrases, giving Aotearoa a unique lexicon compared to the rest of the world.

“It is clear that te reo has had a profound and lasting impact on English in New Zealand,” OED executive editor Danica Salazar said.

“The OED will record even more Māori contributions to the lexicon as it continues to monitor the evolution of English in this part of the world.”

You can see the full list of added words here.

Perception of te reo has evolved 'dramatically'

Hemi Dale.

Director of Māori medium education at the University of Auckland, Hemi Dale, told 1News that the additional words, along with what's already in the dictionary, show how far Aotearoa has come in its acceptance of te reo Māori.

“I think it’s great in terms of showing a trend towards te reo Māori in New Zealand and the way we perceive te reo Māori as a nation, so I’m really happy about that,” he said.

“The language has become part of our psyche, if you like, as a nation - it’s in the name Aotearoa.”

He said the perception of te reo has evolved “dramatically” since the Māori renaissance kicked off in the 1970s.

“Across Aotearoa, I think there's a really positive attitude towards te reo Māori; we hear it spoken in a range of settings.”

He was glad to see words like rangatiratanga and tino rangatiratanga make the list. It shows the country is starting to accept the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Dale said.

“It reflects the modern world we live in and the political aspiration for self-determination.

“These are keywords and terms used within the treaty, and again even using Ti Tiriti as a way of differentiating the treaty from the English language version is all part of ensuring our shared understanding of what these terms are.”

Dale said the additional words, along with other efforts to revitalise the language, demonstrate how close New Zealand is to being a bilingual country.

“I think, as we've seen over the last two to three years, various cities taking up the mantels as bilingual cities.

“It’s certainly looking aspirational in terms of growing the number of speakers and seeing Aotearoa as a bilingual nation.

“We’ve all got a part to play - we see across government departments they’re setting goals around the number of Māori language speakers by 2040, and I’m excited about it.”

He referenced a flight to Wellington, where te reo was used alongside English.

“Came down to Wellington today, flying Air New Zealand, [i heard] tena koe, kia ora and ma te wa, in terms of goodbye, it’s about their approach to supporting the language.

“The fact you can use a Māori language operative to check in at the airport is fantastic.”

Should the OED seek to add more te reo words, Dale said he would love to be responsible for some new additions.

“I thought of a whole lot of other words and ways in which in which the language is being normalised here in Aotearoa.”

He listed a number of other phrases that Kiwis use in everyday life that English has borrowed from te reo.

“Things like the Census, that's projected on the name tatau tātou, which means count us.

“We've had Te Matatini lately, so words that come out of that, like kapa haka, waiata and poi.

“In the schooling sector, we've got words like kohanga reo and kura kaupapa.

“They’re what I would add,” he said.


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