Research reveals unique Tainui kupu

Press Release – Gareth Seymour

Media release: Research reveals unique Tainui kupu

A transcribing project using archival recordings is identifying how unique the reo of Tainui speakers was in the past – and what this means for today’s speakers.

Many kupu are used consistently by the old people in Tainui – and there are also words that they do not use. An example kupu is mehemea (if), which is used consistently by the kaumātua, and mēnā, which is not used by them in the recordings.

Other kupu that are used consistently by Tainui kaumātua include:

ngō as in ko wai ngō mātua? This is not used outside of Tainui. the ngia passive which seems to be the default passive in Tainui. This means that when teaching the passive in Tainui, our people might need to bypass the standard grammar books.
the wh in whea, which is used in other words like pēwhea, manuwhiri, inawhea, tēwhea etc. mehemea, not mēnā which is used outside of Tainui.
tupuna / tūpuna, v tipuna which is used outside of Tainui. rūruhi and koroheke v kuia and koroua.

The kaumātua also default to the ‘e … ana’ form, meaning we ask ‘e pēwhea ana?’ This form is used hundreds of times in the transcripts.

Gareth Seymour is managing this transcription project and says that for Tainui reo there are many words to learn and in some cases, kupu need to be left out of our kete. Mēnā is an example of a kupu that doesn’t really sit in the Tainui kete.

‘The link to the old reo is real. We can keep it alive. There are ample recordings for us to tune our ears to the old folks and how and what they had to say.’
‘We can learn our own reo today and pass it to the next generation.’

The analysis of the archival recordings shows how consistent the reo is in Tainui, from Mōkau to Tāmaki. The reo of Tainui is so unique that standard text books need considerable interpretation when used in te rohe o Tainui.

‘It makes sense for Waikato and Maniapoto to be running classes based on our own dialect. This research shows us that we need to develop word lists, dictionaries and even grammar guides that reinforce the unique nature of our reo.’
Notes on the project:

Using archive recordings, Gareth Seymour is transcribing the speech of a range of kaumātua.

This analysis has sampled four hours of speech recordings from kaumatuā from across Tainui: Te Puaha o Waikato (2), Ōtorohanga, Kāwhia (2), Pirongia.

The larger project will develop a Tainui corpus – the kaumātua in this sample contribute 22,000 words to this corpus.

The project will transcribe a much larger sample, adding tens of thousands of words to the Tainui corpus.

There are variations to the reo in Tainui waka, however the features noted here appear to occur in the area from Mōkau to Auckland and go as far east as Matamata, Cambridge, Pārāwera and into Ngāti Maniapoto through to Taumarunui.

  Mānga O Kahu K Iti R Hinerangi H Rua C George N
ngō 3 9 22 4 4 0
ngia 24 9 68 10 20 4
whea 10 4 1 0 7 0
tūpuna 6 18 15 0 6 11
rūruhi 7 8 4 0 0 0
koroheke 18 4 0 0 1 0
mehemea 3 6 6 3 17 0
whēnei 1 7 13 0 9 2
Corpus 4450 5090 3940 1580 5000 1500

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