Māori Pronunciation

still under development

The pronunciation of Māori is changing. Older native speakers living today pronounce Māori words quite differently to younger adult speakers who are more proficient in English (i.e. English dominant). In turn the older native speaker's pronunciation is quite to their grandparents who were more likely to a use a more distinctive a set of vowels when speaking either language (the references below cite research to support this).

Younger speakers of Māori show marked influences of English in their pronunciation of Māori. This is not surprising given the Māori community (with few exceptions) is very much English speaking.

English speaking learners of Māori often have difficulty with three consonants /ng, r, wh/ and a number of diphthongs which do not occur in New Zealand English (I'll expand in the future).

Most Māori pronunciation resources available are largely a waste of time and money. All they do is provide exemplars of pronunciation. Generally the authors do not have the technical background (in terms of auditory/acoustic knowledge) to describe how Māori should be pronounced correctly.

Check out MAONZE A research project undertaking research on changes in the pronunciation of Māori. 


Bauer, W. A. (1993). Māori. London: Routledge.

Harlow, R. (2007). Māori: A linguistic introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harlow, R., Keegan, P.J., King, J., Maclagan, M., & Watson, C.I. (2005). Te whakahuatanga i te reo Māori: Kua ahatia e tātou i roto i ngā tau 100 kua hipa nei? The pronunciation of Māori: What have we done to it in the last 100 years? He Puna Kōrero, Journal of Māori & Pacific Development, 6(1), 7-27.

Keegan, P.J., Watson, C.I., Maclagan, M., & King., J. (2014). Sound Change in Māori and the formation of the MAONZE project. In M. Degani, A. Onysko, & J. King (Eds.), He Hiringa He PÅ«manawa, Studies on the Māori Language: A Festschrift in honour of Ray Harlow (pp. 33-54). Wellington: Huia.

Maclagan, M., Harlow, R., King, J., Keegan, P.J., & Watson, C.I. (2004). New Zealand English influence on Māori pronunciation over time. Te Reo, Journal of the Linguistic Society of New Zealand, 47, 45-57.

Maclagan, M. & King, J. (2002). The pronunciation of wh in Māori - a case study from the late nineteenth century. Te Reo: Journal of the Linguistic Society of New Zealand 45, 45-63.

Watson C.I., Keegan P.J., Maclagan M., Harlow, R., & King J. The motivation and development of MPAi, a Māori Pronunciation Aid, Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (Interspeech), Stockholm, August 20-24, 2017.

Watson, C.I., Maclagan, M., King, J., Harlow, R., & Keegan P.J., (2016). Sound change in Māori and the Influence of New Zealand English. Journal of the International Phonetics Association, 46, 02, 185-218. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0025100316000013

Last modified: 9 March 2021. NZST

This page is Copyright © Peter J Keegan, PhD, 2003-2021.