New Book Shows 194 Years Of Change In Te Reo Māori

Press Release – Bible Society

To coincide with this year’s Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, Bible Society has re-issued one of the first books ever published in te reo Māori. The book, which featured selected passages from the Bible and some hymns translated into Māori, was published in 1827 and was the fifth book to ever be published in te reo.

Bible Society’s reissue features a brand new contemporary 2021 translation of the same Bible passages alongside scans of the original book from 1827.

The new translation was completed by a team of Māori language experts and church scholars.

“The two pages side by side represent 194 years of evolution of the Māori language,” Dr Stephen Pattemore, Bible Society’s Translations Director says.

One expert in te reo Māori explains it like this:

“The difference between the 1827 text and contemporary Māori could be compared to the difference between Jane Austen’s and modern English. It is understandable, though it may sound a little archaic or unnatural, since the structure and vocabulary are somewhat different from that experienced by modern readers. The spelling of words like whenua with the wh digraph would not become frequent for another 15 or so years, and the use of macrons, common today, was not developed until much later.”

At the time of publication in 1827, attempts to print in te reo Māori had only been going on for 12 years. The first attempt at printing Māori was called “A Korao no New Zealand or the New Zealander’s First Book: An attempt to compose some lessons for the instruction of the Natives”. Written by Thomas Kendall, he noted this first attempt at printing in te reo had “many defects in it”.

Three small grammar and vocabulary books followed that first book by Thomas Kendall, before the 1827 Bible passages were published. The book was put through a printing press in Sydney, with 400 copies being produced at a cost of £41.

The 2021 reissue of this now rare book includes high resolution scans of the orignal from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.

Most of the first books printed in te reo Māori were Christian Scriptures or church resources such as catechisms, prayers and hymns.

This reissue edition is part of a wider project to translate the entire Paipera Tapu (Holy Bible) into contemporary Māori for a new generation of speakers of the language. Alongside this, in early 2022, Bible Society plans to launch a new bilingual Bible which is currently being printed. This presents the 2012 reformatted Paipera Tapu in parallel with the 1989 NRSV English Bible.

For more information on the Pukapuka Karaipiture Tuatahi (1827 Māori Scripture Commemorative Booklet) visit 1827.nz . This site offers a downloadable option of the booklet.

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