7 Sep 2021

Scotty Morrison - modern phrases in te reo

From Nine To Noon, 11:30 am on 7 September 2021

It's been 10 years since te reo Māori advocate and teacher Scotty Morrison’s first Raupō Phrasebook of Modern Māori hit the shelves.

He has now revised it to keep up with the changing environment and technology.

Scotty Morrison


Prof Morrison says the book is useful for beginners as well as people who are fluent but seeking everyday phrases.

"Because the language is always evolving you can just about put out a phrasebook every five to 10 years," he tells Kathryn Ryan.

"There's things in there for everybody, it's not a book you read from start to finish. It's a book where you find the part where say you want to learn a speech or something in te reo, then you go the marae section there and there's some sample speeches there."

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, a plethora of new vocabulary has been added to te reo Māori.

"It's almost created a whole new set of vocabulary that we need to use to be able to talk about Covid-19 in te reo Māori."

That's been one of the motivations for Prof Morrison to renew his book, he says.

Useful terms:

  • mate korona - coronavirus
  • mate urutā - pandemic and epidemic

A new word for Covid-19 has emerged which combines 'korona' - a borrowed word for Covid-19, or karauna describing its crown-like imagery - and 'wheori' - meaning virus.

"So when you're talking about Covid, you're talking about Kowheori [Covid] tekau mā iwa [19]."

Te reo Māori has always evolved to change in the world, prof Morrison says, including the development of technology.

Some of these words are borrowed, and some are combined, he says.

"It's taking old words that have a particular meaning, marrying them up to create new words to be able to continue to articulate ourselves accurately in te reo Māori, despite what the new technology is or what the new environment creates for us."

Useful terms:

  • paeāhua (Instagram)
  • pōhi pae āhua (Instagram post)
  • pukamata (facebook)
  • atapaki (Snapchat)
  • tikitoka (Tiktok)
  • ahokore (wifi)
  • zui (Zoom)

At the same time, there are words no longer relevant, which Prof Morrison has removed from his book, like fax machines (waea whakaahua) and CD (kōpae waiata).

He has included various chapters for things like talking to newborns, terms for sports and even the history of te reo Māori.

"It's a very important part of who are and how we conduct ourselves and what our behaviours is hopefully supposed to be like in terms of our tikanga and our reo."

He says the country is reaching a stage where more people are recognising the importance of revitalising te reo Māori.

"It's created a lot of unity, it's created a lot of positivity, people have started to realise there's a lot of value in te reo Māori, we always the pockets of negativity.

"But you don't necessarily have to be fluent, you just go in and start to engage, start to feel what the language can offer you on an individual basis but also on a company and business level and then they start to say 'actually this can really unify us'.

"The reo can be the glue, or the centre point, that you focus on to build that whanaungatanga (connectivity). We're pretty swamped with requests from a lot of businesses that are keen to get started."

It was also vital to try as best as you can to pronounce words correctly, he says.

"Especially among broadcasters now, I think there's a big drive for broadcasters to get it right and they're an important platform because broadcasters have a lot of impact and a lot of influence on how things are pronounced across the country."