Moriori Language
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Moriori Language

Moriori is an extinct[3]Polynesian language most closely related to New Zealand M?ori. It is the native language of the Moriori, the indigenous people of New Zealand's Chatham Islands (R?kohu in Moriori), an archipelago located east of the South Island.


The Chatham Island's first European contact was with William R. Broughton of Great Britain who landed on 29 November 1791 and claimed the islands. He renamed his ship, HMS Chatham. Broughton's crewmen intermarried with the women of Moriori.

The genocide of the Moriori people by Maori invaders occurred during the fall of 1835. The invasions of the Chatham Islands left the Moriori people and their culture to die off. Those who survived were either kept as slaves and Moriori were not sanctioned to marry other Moriori or have children within their race. This caused their people and their language to be endangered. There were only 101 Moriori people left out of 2000 who had survived in 1863.[4]

The invasion from Taranaki had a heavy impact on Moriori population, culture and language, with only 101 Moriori remaining in 1862,[5] and few speaking the language by the 1870s.[6] However, Samuel Deighton, Resident Magistrate on the Chathams from 1873 to 1891, compiled a short vocabulary of Moriori words, with their equivalents in M?ori and English. The vocabulary was published as an appendix of Michael King's Moriori: A People Rediscovered.

The language was reconstructed for Barry Barclay's 2000 film documentary The Feathers of Peace,[7] in a recreation of Moriori contact with P?keh? and M?ori.

In 2001, as part of a cultural revival movement, Moriori people began attempts to revive the language, and compiled a database of Moriori words.[8] There is a POLLEX (Polynesian Lexicon Project Online) database of Moriori words as well.[9]

The 2006 New Zealand census showed 945 people choosing to include "Moriori" amongst their tribal affiliations, compared to 35 people in the 1901 census.[10]

Comparison to Maori

The word a in Moriori corresponds to e in M?ori, ka for ki, eriki for ariki (lord, chief), reimata for roimata (tear), wihine for wahine (woman), and more.[11] Sometimes a vowel is dropped before a consonant such as na (ena), ha (aha) and after a consonant like rangat (rangata), nawen (nawene), hok (hoki), or (oro), and mot (motu), thus leaving a closed syllable. A vowel is also sometimes dropped after a vowel in the case the preceding vowel is lengthened and sometimes before a vowel, where the remaining vowel is lengthened.[12]


  1. ^ "Hirawanu Tapu Peace Scholarship" (PDF). Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Moriori". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Maori at Ethnologue
  4. ^ "The Genocide". Moriori Genocide. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ Denise Davis & M?ui Solomon (28 October 2008). "Moriori: The impact of new arrivals". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. NZ Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 2009.
  6. ^ King, Michael (1989). "Moriori: A People Rediscovered". Auckland: Viking: 136. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "The Feathers of Peace (2000)". Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ Denise Davis & M?ui Solomon (28 October 2008). "Moriori: The second dawn". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. NZ Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 2009.
  9. ^ Greenhill, SJ; Clark, R (2011). "POLLEX-Online: The Polynesian Lexicon Project Online". Oceanic Linguistics. 50 (2): 551-559. doi:10.1353/ol.2011.0014. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ Denise Davis & M?ui Solomon (28 October 2008). "Moriori: Facts and figures". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. NZ Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 2009.
  11. ^ Simon Ager. "Moriori Alphabet". Omniglot. Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ Taiuru, Karaitiana (2016). "Word list and analysis of te reo Moriori" (PDF). Retrieved 2018.

Further reading

  • Clark, R. (1994). "Moriori and Maori: The Linguistic Evidence". In Sutton, D. (ed) The origins of the First New Zealanders. Auckland: Auckland University Press. pp. 123-135.
  • Galbraith, Sarah. A Grammar of the Moriori language.
  • Richards, Rhys (2018), Moriori: Origins, Lifestyles and Language, Paremata Press
  • Taiuru, K.N. (2016). Word list and analysis of te reo Moriori.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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