“An unrealistic expectation”: Māori youth on indigenous language purism

Journal article by Nathan Albury and Lyn Carter in International Journal of the Sociology of Language, volume 2018, issue 254, 2018.


Linguistic purism can play an especially political role in legitimising and authenticating indigenous identities. For languages now undergoing revitalisation after histories of colonial conquest, purism that precludes foreign influences in language corpora and behaviour can be seen as reversing the impacts of language contact and reasserting indigeneity. This is indeed the case for te reo Māori, the indigenous language of New Zealand, that was suppressed and essentially outlawed by the British but is now undergoing revitalisation. How indigenous New Zealanders feel about such purism, however, has been subject to minimal inquiry. This article analyses the attitudes of around 200 Māori youth, solicited through an online survey, to purism in Māori vocabulary development and to a recurring purist discourse, commonly reproduced by indigenous elders, that criticises errors when speaking te reo Māori. The article reveals a tension between supporting purism for the linguistic self-determination of the indigenous collective, and rejecting purism on the basis this inhibits the linguistic emancipation of individuals. On balance, it appears these Māori youth may hold significantly less purist attitudes than current language policy and locally pervasive ideology.


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Published Jan. 24, 2019 2:16 PM - Last modified Jan. 24, 2019 2:16 PM