4 Feb 2015

Rate of language change high

7:51 pm on 4 February 2015

An Australian-based study shows the Māori language changes much faster compared to other Pacific languages.

Researchers from the Australian National University compared 20 Polynesian languages from countries across the Pacific.

They found that smaller populations such as Māori tend to lose words more often, whereas the rate of gaining new words is higher in larger populations.

University of Auckland Associate Professor in School of Psychology Quentin Atkinson said if there were more Māori speakers, the depth and variation in the language would be more likely to survive.

"The drop in the number of Te Reo speakers makes it more likely that words are lost.

"It's been shown via the study that language change is sensitive to the number of speakers of the language so everything should be done so that the world's languages, including Māori, are revitalised," Mr Atkinson said.

He said it was very worrying that there were a lot of languages which were endangered.

However a Maori language expert and professor of Te Reo and tikanga at Waikato University said the study had no value.

Pou Temara said the research didn't reveal anything new and added nothing to the topic.

"Research people in New Zealand have carried out do have proposed answers that would mitigate the problem as they see it but this one doesn't seem to provide any answers for that so from that point of view it has no real value," he said.

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