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Review of  Mäori

Reviewer: Antonis Polentas
Book Title: Mäori
Book Author: Ray Harlow
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Issue Number: 18.3539

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AUTHOR: Harlow, Ray
TITLE: Maori
SUBTITLE: A Linguistic Introduction
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2007

Antonis Polentas, Department of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex (UK)

Harlow's linguistic introduction to Maori, a Polynesian language spoken in New
Zealand, aims at offering a guide to the growing body of linguistic research on
this relatively well studied Oceanic language. The author uses his long
experience with Maori to write a book that fills a gap in the literature on
Maori. Following the general format of the ''Linguistic Introductions'' series of
CUP the book contains chapters on the structure of the language (phonology,
morphology and syntax), on its history, on the variation among its dialects and
on sociolinguistic issues. In spite of its relatively small size (the main text
including the notes extends to 224 pages), the author manages to discuss a wide
range of topics that may stimulate the interest of theoretical linguists,
typologists, historical linguists, or sociolinguists. As is the case with other
books in the series, this is not a reference grammar of Maori (for that the
author points to references such as Bauer 1993, 1997 and his own 2001 grammar of
Maori), nor a book for the learner of Maori, but a guide to the landscape of
linguistic research on this language. The book covers a wide range of topics,
presents the reader with a series of ''highlights'' of Maori linguistics, and
provides pointers to literature for further reading.

CHAPTER 1, ''Maori literature and literature in Maori''.
In the first chapter Harlow offers a concise, 4-page long, introduction to early
works on Maori (i.e. works up to 1960s where Biggs' publications marked the
beginning of linguistically oriented work on the language and to the types of
texts written in Maori. As he comments, and as it becomes obvious from the rest
of the book, whereas the academic study of Maori and the production of Maori
literature flourish, the future of the language itself is still not secure, and
Maori is still considered an endangered language.

CHAPTER 2, ''A brief history of Maori''.
In this chapter the author first devotes a section on the position of Maori and
Polynesian languages in the large Austroasiatic family and its subgroups. The
text is accompanied with a map and family trees of the Austronesian, Oceanic and
Polynesian language families. The rest of the chapter deals with various types
of linguistic change attested in the development of Maori contrasting it with
other Oceanic and more specifically Polynesian languages (Lynch et al. 2002).
There's discussion of the phonological, grammatical and vocabulary development
of Maori, accompanied with tables with comparative data from Maori, other
Polynesian languages and the reconstructed Proto-Polynesian forms. Of interest
is the presentation of the ergative/accusative character of Maori and its
ancestor (i.e. Proto-Polynesian), and the conflicting views expressed by Clark
(1976) and Chung (1978). The section provides the reader with an introduction to
one of the hard to solve (but also fascinating) puzzles of Maori linguistics.

CHAPTER 3, ''Regional variation in Maori''.
The author points out that there are mentions of variation in Maori even in the
early documents on the language and he discusses a number of publications with
materials relevant to the question of variation in Maori. In this chapter, he
introduces the reader to the nature of variation among Maori dialects especially
in phonology and the lexicon, with a brief mention of grammatical variation as
well. The most interesting part of the chapter is Harlow's discussion of the
importance of this variation in the study of the development of Maori (relating
the contents of this chapter to the history of the language and to issues
regarding the migration of the Maoris to New Zealand) and what explanations have
been offered for it. Next, there is a short section on the Maori spoken in the
South Island and finally the chapter closes with a discussion of Moriori, the
extinct language of Chatham Islands which has been seen as a close relative (or
even a dialect) of Maori. The text in this chapter is accompanied with maps and
tables of the relevant data.

CHAPTER 4, ''The phonology of Maori''.
In spite of its title this chapter discusses aspects of the phonetics and the
spelling system of Maori, as well as its phonology. It starts with a discussion
of the segmental phonology of Maori, which shows some interesting
characteristics in spite of the small number of phonemes (10 consonants and 5
vowels with short and long counterparts), a typical characteristic of Polynesian
languages. Harlow discusses the feature specifications of the phonemes of Maori
starting from Biggs and moving to De Lacy (1997). He then moves on to issues
regarding the status of vowel length in Maori and proposals about the
appropriate analysis of long vowels. After a brief mention of diphthongs and
phonotactics, he turns to the structure of the syllable and the importance of
morae in Maori. Again in spite of the simplicity of the (C)V(V(V)) structure
(depending on one's analysis of long vowels) Harlow points at the challenges
that syllabification of Maori has posed to most recent phonological research.
Pages 75 to 85 deal with experimental studies on the phonetics of Maori, with
mention of the MAONZE (Maori and New Zealand English), a project of recordings
of Maori speakers in the 1940s, offering valuable data for the study of recent
sound changes in Maori, its regional variation etc. The section on phonetics is
concluded with a comprehensive discussion of stress. The last part of the
chapter (pp. 85-92) addresses issues regarding the spelling system of Maori, the
inconsistencies observed (in spite of the transparent correspondence between
letters and sounds) and the development of Maori orthography.
Characteristically, the word Maori is spelled either with a macron above ''a'' or
as Maaori, showing two different ways to represent long vowels in the writing.

CHAPTER 5, ''The morphology of Maori''.
Maori word structure looks quite simple when compared with that of languages
with complex inflection, but it poses a variety of challenges to linguistic
theory. Harlow devotes a large part of the chapter on how to define parts of
speech in Maori and the challenges presented to anyone undertaking such task.
Following Biggs' division of Maori words into ''bases'' (roughly corresponding to
''content words''), and particles, in this chapter he deals with the
classification of the former, leaving the latter for the chapter on syntax. The
challenges of this task are mainly due to the presence of very little
inflectional morphology in Maori, which means that the form of the words itself
does not help much in its classification as a noun, verb or adjective.
Therefore, criteria regarding the distribution of words, their co-occurrence
with some particles, etc. should be used. The discussion is useful for people
not acquainted with the literature on Maori, as Harlow makes a lot of effort to
explain the terms used by Maori specialists, notably in naming the different
classes of verbs/predicates.

The little inflectional morphology that may appear on Maori words is dealt with
next. Harlow briefly mentions the few cases of nouns which have different forms
in the singular and the plural and then discusses the formation of the passive,
one of the most widely discussed topics in the literature.

In the section on derivation he presents some basic information on
nominalization, the most common prefixes, on various forms of reduplication, and
on compounding.

CHAPTER 6, ''The syntax of Maori''.
Already in the chapter on morphology Harlow touches upon topics that sometimes
are seen as syntactic (e.g. the discussion about the parts of speech in a
language with very little inflectional morphology, like Maori). In chapter 6 he
aims at giving an overview of the phrase structure of Maori based on the
reference grammar available and on some theoretical works. He starts with a
brief look to the general structure of the phrase in Maori as described in the
structuralist work of Biggs (1961), but including a brief presentation of some
more recent generative accounts. The next section contains a list of the most
common tense/aspect markers with brief descriptions of their use and their
meaning. This is a quite useful section for readers not familiar with the
language as it helps them follow the glosses and the translations of the
examples given in the book, which almost always contain some tense/aspect
particles, of which it is hard to give an exact translation into English. The
sections on the determiners and the prepositions are also very useful, as their
semantics is complicated and has been the subject of recent research. Harlow
completes the discussion of particles with a quick look at what he terms
''postposed particles'', i.e. particles that follow the lexical elements of the
clause. In a theory neutral way Harlow discusses the positions available to
these particles in the clause and their order. These sections of Chapter 6
complement the discussion on parts of speech in Maori of the previous chapter.

Following Biggs' analysis into pre- and postposed periphery slots and the
nucleus and having dealt with the elements that can occur in the periphery
slots, Harlow moves on to deal with the structure of the nucleus. He discusses
what type of lexical material can occupy the nucleus of the clause and which
combinations of lexical categories are attested. The following section provides
the reader with a closer look at the sentence structure of Maori, its VSX order,
and the basic syntactic constituents (subjects, objects, obliques) as well as
some other types of main clauses (e.g. existential clauses). In the following
three sections he turns to three important topics in the syntax of Maori, namely
coordination, negation and possession, the latter being a widely discussed topic
in Oceanic linguistics.

Passives and other ''transforms'' of the main clause, like focus and topic
constructions are discussed next. The topic of passive clauses is related to the
question of ''ergativity'' in Maori and in Proto-Polynesian, which Harlow decided
to discuss in the chapter on the development of Maori, but here he focuses on
analyses of the situation in today's Maori. The so-called ''actor-emphatic''
construction is probably the most widely discussed fronting construction in
Maori. Harlow focused on the presentation of the data, but from time to time he
presents some theoretically oriented analyses, mainly inspired by recent
developments in generative grammar. The final section of the chapter deals with
complex sentences, starting from adverbial clauses and moving to complement
clauses and finally to relative ones. Again the presentation of data is
sometimes followed by references to recent generative analyses.

CHAPTER 7, ''The sociolinguistic situation of Maori''.
The final chapter of the books discusses a range of sociolinguistic topics
related to the status of Maori in New Zealand. Harlow starts with a review of
studies on the language shift which happened in most Maori communities in New
Zealand and which resulted in a situation where only a minority of the Maori
population is able to speak Maori fluently. This language shift to English
caused Maori to be considered an endangered language in the 1970s. Then the
author looks at the efforts to reverse this language shift and to revitalize
Maori. He discusses the status of Maori as an official language, its use in
education both as a subject of study and as medium of tuition (and the important
initiative of the so-called 'language nests' (_kohanga reo_), and the use of
Maori in the media. The generally positive attitude of Maori people towards
their language has been seen as an important factor in the vitality of the
language. But a survey of the studies on the attitudes towards Maori and their
correlation with the actual use of the language shows that in spite of this
positive attitude Maori hasn't escaped endangerment yet. Then Harlow briefly
looks at a range of language planning policies in New Zealand and materials
produced about Maori. An interesting section deals with strategies used to
expand the Maori vocabulary as the language acquires a broader range of uses.
The final section of the chapter is titled with a question, ''Language death?''.
Harlow mentions cases of language change in the speech of young Maori speakers,
and increased code-switching, because of contact with English, but he points out
that this should not necessarily be seen as a sign for language death. In his
conclusion he expresses his optimism for the survival of the language, but he
warns that ''both complacency about its security and a defeatist position which
gives up the effort'' can have a negative effect on the future of the Maori
language, whose survival seems that it will ''remain dependent on conscious
effort and commitment'' (p. 219).

The overall impression from the book is that it provides a comprehensive and
concise introduction to Maori linguistics, and therefore it fills a gap in the
existing literature. The number of publications on Maori in the last 40-50 years
justifies the writing of a book which can be used as a guide to this increasing
body of research.

The editorial policy for this series is that examples are not numbered, which
makes the book less usable for reference. Moreover, the lack of numbered
examples makes the connection of parts of the book dealing with the same topic
less clear (e.g. the various mentions of object incorporation or of neutral
verbs). An additional weakness of the book is its short index. This is just more
than 2 pages long and it contains mainly linguistic terms, mainly English words,
and a few names of missionaries and explorers who connected their names to the
study of Maori. It is not clear why the names of modern linguists do not appear
in the index (I can expect that linguists who would like to use this book as a
guide to Maori linguistics would find the inclusion of these names in the index
useful) and why most Maori terms are not there as well. For example, although
there is a list of the Maori tense/aspect particles under ''tense/aspect
markers'', the same has not been done for determiners or other particles. It
might be useful to have a separate index with the Maori words that are discussed
in the text (for example, a list of the various tense/aspect particles and
determiners should be useful).

Although the book is readable and stimulating, readers who are not familiar with
descriptive facts about Maori may have to look at a reference grammar like the
one by Bauer (1997) in order to get a better understanding of the topics
discussed. Harlow does not pretend to be giving a full account of the topics he
covers and he directs the reader to a variety of sources (books, papers,
articles, websites, etc. - a strong point of the book no doubt), but one may get
the impression that some extra pages would have benefited the book, in that they
could have given the author the space to make his discussion more comprehensive
and clarify some of his points (the chapters on morphology and syntax come to
mind). For example, it is a strong point of the book that Harlow does not
confine himself in mentioning just the data or the standard descriptive works,
but he refers to works written from the perspective of a modern linguistic
theory (like Optimality Theory, Minimalism, or formal semantics). In some of
these cases, especially when it comes to the discussion of syntactic topics, the
reader might have found a more comprehensive discussion of these analyses
useful. This could have addressed the motivation behind each analysis proposed.

Generally, the book covers a wide range of topics for its size and therefore it
can provide a good and handy introduction to the linguistic research on Maori.

Bauer, Winifred. (1993). _Maori_. London and New York: Routledge.

Bauer, Winifred. (1997). _The Reed Reference Grammar of Maori_. Auckland: Reed.

Biggs, Bruce. (1961). The Structure of New Zealand Maaori. _Anthropological
Linguistics_ 3.3: 1-54.

Chung, Sandra. (1978). _Case-Marking and Grammatical Relations in Polynesian_.
Austin and London: University of Texas Press.

Clark, Ross. (1976). _Aspects of Proto-Polynesian Syntax_. Te Reo Monograph.
Auckland: Linguistic Society of New Zealand.

De Lacy, Paul. (1997). A Co-occurrence Restriction in Maori. _Te Reo_ 40: 10-44.

Harlow, Ray. (2001). _A Maori Reference grammar_. Auckland: Pearson Education.

Lynch, John., Malcolm. Ross, and Terry. Crowley (2002). _The Oceanic Languages_.
Richmond, Surrey: Curzon.

Antonis Polentas is a PhD candidate at the Department of Language and
Linguistics at the University of Essex (UK). His dissertation is about an
approach to the syntax of Modern Greek and some other Balkan languages from the
perspective of ''Simpler Syntax'' as proposed by Culicover and Jackendoff (2005).
His interests include constraint-based linguistic theories, morphology,
linguistic typology (Balkan and African languages) and (as a secondary area of
research) second language acquisition.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0521808618
ISBN-13: 9780521808613
Pages: 256
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