New Zealand English
the language code for New Zealand
English , as defined by ISO
standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).) is the form of the
English language used in New Zealand.
The English language was established in New Zealand by colonists
during the 19th century. The most distinctive influences on New
Zealand English have come from southern England, Scottish English (see Dunedin), and the
New Zealand English is close to Australian English
in its pronunciation;
there are, however, several subtle differences, many of which show
the influence of Maori speech . One of the most prominent
differences between the New Zealand accent and that of Australia is
the realization of /ɪ/
: in New Zealand
English, as in some South
varieties, this is pronounced as a schwa
Dictionaries of New Zealand English
The first comprehensive dictionary dedicated to New Zealand English
was probably the Heinemann New Zealand dictionary
published in 1979. Edited by Harry
, it is a comprehensive 1,300-page book, with information
relating to the usage and pronunciation of terms that were both
widely accepted throughout the English-speaking world and those
peculiar to New Zealand. It includes a one-page list of the
approximate date of entry into common parlance of many terms found
in New Zealand English but not elsewhere, such as "haka" (1827),
"Boohai" (1920), and "bach" (1905).
In 1997, Oxford University
produced the Dictionary of New Zealand English
which it claimed was based on over forty years of research. This
research started with Orsman's 1951 thesis and continued with his
editing this dictionary. To assist with and maintain this work, the
New Zealand Dictionary
was founded in 1997. Since then, it has published
several more dictionaries of New Zealand English, culminating in
the publication of The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary in 2004.
light-hearted look at English as spoken in New Zealand, A
personal Kiwi-Yankee dictionary, was written by the
American-born University of
Otago psychology lecturer Louis Leland in 1980.
This slim volume lists many of the potentially confusing and/or
misleading terms for Americans visiting or migrating to New
Zealand. A second edition was published during the 1990s.
A distinct New Zealand variant of the English language has been in
existence since at least 1912, when Frank Arthur Swinnerton
as a "carefully modulated murmur," though its history probably goes
back further than that. From the beginning of the British
settlement on the islands, a new dialect began to form by adopting
Māori words to describe the different flora and fauna of New
Zealand, for which English did not have any words of its own.
The short front vowels
- The short-i of KIT is a central vowel around or . This
sounds somewhat similar to (although not quite as open as) a
short-u in other forms of English, and contrasts sharply
with the -like vowel heard in Australia. Because of this, some New
Zealanders often claim that Australians say "feesh and cheeps" for
fish and chips while some
Australians conversely claim that New Zealanders say "fush and
chups". The New Zealander's short-i is not phonologically
distinct from the schwa .
- The short-e of DRESS has moved to fill in the space
left by , and it is phonetically in the region of . It sounds like
a short-i itself to most other English speakers.
- Likewise, the short-a of TRAP is approximately , which
sounds like a short-e to most Northern Hemisphere English
Documentary films from the first half of the 20th century featuring
both Australian and New Zealand voices show that the accents were
more similar before the Second World War and they diverged mostly
after the 1950s. Recent linguistic
research has suggested that the short, flat "i" heard in New
Zealand comes from the dialects of English spoken by lower-class
English people in the late nineteenth century.
is, however, also encountered in Scottish English
, and given the higher
level of Scottish emigration to New Zealand than to Australia, this
may also be an influence. The pronunciation of English vowels by
native Māori speakers may also have influenced the New Zealand
accent. (However Maori has , the "Australian" sound, but not or the
)" and "New
Zealand" ones respectively, making this seem unlikely) - There is
also a Māori
accent distinct from the
accent of native English speakers.
- The vowels as in near and as in square are
increasingly being merged, so that here rhymes with
there; and bear and beer, and
rarely and really are homophones. This is the
"most obvious vowel change taking place" in New Zealand English.
There is some debate as to the quality of the merged vowel, but the
consensus appears to be that it is towards a close variant, .
- Before , the vowels : (as in reel vs real),
as well as : (doll vs dole), and sometimes :
(pull vs pool), : (Ellen vs
Alan) and : (full vs fill) may be merged
- - as in start, bath, and palm is a
near-open central-to-front vowel or . The phonetic quality of this
vowel overlaps with the quality for as in strut. The
difference between the two is entirely length for many
- The vowel (as in bird and nurse) is rounded
and often fronted in the region of .
Zealand English is mostly non-rhotic (with linking and intrusive R), except for
speakers of the so-called Southland burr, a
semi-rhotic, Scottish-influenced dialect heard principally in the
Southland and parts of Otago.
Among r-less speakers, however, non-prevocalic is
sometimes pronounced in a few words, including Ireland and
the name of the letter R itself.
- is dark in all positions, and is often
vocalised in the syllable coda. This
varies in different regions and between different socio-economic groups; the younger, lower
social class speakers vocalise most of the time.
- The distinction between as in witch and as in
which, retained by older speakers, now seems to be
- As in Australian English, some New Zealanders will pronounce
past participles such as grown, thrown and
mown with two syllables, inserting an additional schwa .
By contrast, groan, throne and moan are
all unaffected, meaning these word pairs can be distinguished by
ear. This has also been heard (rarely) in the pronunciation of the
word three, where the schwa appears between the 'th' and
the 'r', creating a two-syllable word, and in words such as
dwarf and Dwane/Duane where the schwa
appears between the 'd' and the 'w' (or 'u'), leading to puns like
- The trans- prefix is commonly pronounced . This
produces mixed pronunciation of the as in words like
"transplant" ( ) whereas in northern (but not southern) British
English the same vowel is used in both syllables ( ).
- The name of the letter H is usually , as in
Great Britain and North America, but it can be the aspirated of
Hiberno-English origin found in
Australian English, though this is often considered incorrect.
The phonology of New Zealand English is similar to that of other
non-rhotic dialects such as Australian English
, but with some distinct
variations, which are indicated by the transcriptions for New
Zealand vowels in the tables below:
For a basic key to the IPA, see .
New Zealand English vocabulary
There are also a number of dialectical words and phrases used in
New Zealand English. These are mostly informal terms most common in
New Zealand adopted decimal currency in the 1960s and the metric
system in the 1970s. While the older measures are understood by
those born before 1960, younger New Zealanders have lived most or
all of their lives in a metric environment and may not be familiar
with pounds, ounces, stones, degrees fahrenheit, acres, yards, and
miles, or pounds sterling, shillings, and pence - unless they have
spent some time and effort studying foreign countries, such as the
Kingdom and the United States.
However, that can be questionable.
Differences from Australian English
Many of these relate to words used to refer to common items, often
based on which major brands become eponym
|Cellphone / mobile / mobile phone
|A portable telephone.
||Insulated container for keeping drinks and food cool.
|Equivalent to convenience
store, although the term usage is becoming rarer. In larger
cities convenience store or
superette are used due to immigration (and
to current NZ law forbidding a "dairy" from selling alcohol ). Note
that the term delicatessen is used in New Zealand for a
somewhat different purpose, referring to a shop or a section of a
supermarket serving specialty foods such as salamis, fine cheeses,
and the like (just as it is in most of the States of
||An area normally used for recreational purposes, usually grass
or earth covered
||A padded quilt.
||Backless sandals (otherwise known as "flip-flops" or "Japanese sandals").
||Jumper or sweater. In New Zealand and
Australia "jersey" is also used for top part of sports uniform
(e.g. for rugby) - another term for a
sports jersey, guernsey, is
frequently used in Australia but only rarely heard in New
|Judder bar / Speed bump
||Humps or the like in urban or suburban roads, designed to limit
the speed of traffic. "Speed bump" is also a common term in both
New Zealand and Australia
||Purplish-brown. Called by the same name in New Zealand as in
the United Kingdom; Australia occasionally uses a different
spelling and predominantly uses a different pronunciation - in New
Zealand it rhymes with spoon, in Australia it rhymes with
||No through road
||A road with a dead end; a cul-de-sac.
|Oil skin / Swanndri
|Oil skin: Country raincoat; Swanndri: heavy woollen jersey
|Swimwear (see Australian
words for swimwear)
||A device, usually four-wheeled, for transporting shopping
||Shopping jeep/granny trolley
||A two-wheeled device for transporting shopping from local shops
(nowadays rarely seen).
||Bush-walking or hiking.
||Wite-Out or Liquid Paper
Felts, Felt tips , Marker
||A permanent marker pen.
|a Used mainly in Queensland and northern New South Wales.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the phrase "milk bar" referred to a place
that served non-alcoholic drinks, primarily milkshakes, tea, and
sometimes coffee. Ice cream was also served.
A traditional difference between the New Zealand "varsity" and the
Australian "uni" (for "university
largely disappeared with the adoption of "uni" into the New Zealand
- New Zealanders will often reply to a question with a statement
spoken with a rising intonation
at the end. This often has the effect of making their statement
sound like another question. There is enough awareness of this that
it is seen in exaggerated form in comedy parody of working-class /
uneducated New Zealanders. This rising intonation can also be heard
at the end of statements, which are not in response to a question
but to which the speaker wishes to add emphasis. High rising
terminals are also heard in Australia, but are said to be more
common in, and possibly originating from, New Zealand..
- In informal speech, some New Zealanders use the third person
feminine she in place of the third person neuter
it as the subject of a sentence, especially when the
subject is the first word of the sentence. The most common use of
this is in the phrase "She'll be right" meaning either "It will be
okay" or "It is close enough to what is required". This is similar
to Australian English.
Many local everyday words have been borrowed from the Māori language
, including words for
, and the natural environment. See
influence on New Zealand English
The dominant influence of Māori on New Zealand English is lexical.
A 1999 estimate based on the Wellington corpora of written and
spoken New Zealand English put the proportion of words of Māori
origin at approximately 0.6%, mostly place and personal
Māori is also ever-present and has a significant conceptual
influence in the legislature, government, and community agencies
(e.g. health and education), where legislation requires that
proceedings and documents are translated into Māori (under certain
circumstances, and when requested). Political discussion and
analysis of issues of sovereignty, environmental management,
health, and social well-being thus rely on Māori at least in part.
Māori as a spoken language is particularly important wherever
community consultation occurs.
Pronunciation of Māori place names
The pronunciation of many Māori place names was anglicised
for most of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, but since the 1980s, increased consciousness
of the Māori language has led to a shift towards using a Māori
pronunciation.The anglicisations have persisted most among
residents of the towns in question, so it has become something of a
, with correct Māori
pronunciation marking someone as non-local.
||tee-awa-moot or tee-a-mootu
||wacker-wite or weka-what
||Oh-tra-hung-a or Oh-tra-hong-a
Some anglicised names are colloquially shortened, for example,
"coke" for Kohukohu, "the Rapa" (pronounced rapper) for the
Wairarapa, "Pram" for Paraparaumu and "the Naki" (pronounced
nackey, rhymes with lackey) for Taranaki.
Dialects within New Zealand English
Recognisable regional variations is slight,
with the exception of Southland, where the "Southland burr" (see above) is
heard. This southern area formed a traditional
repository of immigration from Scotland (see Dunedin).
Several words and phrases common in Scots
still persist in this area as well. Some examples of
this include the use of wee
to mean "small", and phrases
such as to do the messages
meaning "to go shopping".
speakers from the West Coast of the South Island retain a half Australian accent
from the region's 19th century gold-rush settlers.
retain a further variation of New
Zealand English, with accents of varying degree, and tending to use
Māori words more frequently. Bro'Town
popular TV programme that exaggerated Māori, Polynesian, and other
- Where there is a distinct difference between British and US
spelling (such as colour/color and
travelled/traveled), the British spelling is
- In words that may be spelled with either an -ise or an
-ize suffix (such as organise/organize)
New Zealand English uses the -ise suffix exclusively .
This contrasts with American English, where -ize is
generally preferred, and British English, where -ise is
more frequent but -ize is preferred by some (including the
Oxford English Dictionary).
- New Zealand favours the spelling fiord over
fjord, unlike most other
English-speaking countries. This is particularly apparent in the name of
Fiordland, a rugged region in the country's
- The Story of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran,
and Robert MacNeil. BBC Publications and Faber and Faber: London,
- Kortmann and Schneider, pp 587 and 611.
- Crystal, p 354.
- Trudgill and Hannah, pp 23-24
- Kortmann and Schneider, pp 582, 592, 610.
- Trudgill and Hannah, p 24.
- Kortmann and Schneider, pp 589f.
- Kortmann and Schneider, pp 582, 588, 590
- Kortmann and Schneider, pp 582, 591
- Kortmann and Schneider, p 605.
- Kortmann and Schneider, p. 594.
- Crystal, p. 354.
- Trudgill and Hannah, p. 24.
- Kortmann and Schneider, p. 611.
- Trudgill and Hannah, p 24.
- Kortmann and Schneider, pp 606 and 609.
- Trudgill and Hannah, p 24.
- Trudgill and Hannah, p 24.
- Kortmann and Schneider, p 611.
- WordWeb online
- Crystal, p. 355
- Kennedy, Graham & Shinji Yamazaki 1999. The Influence of
Maori on the New Zealand English Lexicon. In John M. Kirk (ed),
Corpora Galore: Analyses and Techniques in Describing English.
Amsterdam: Rodopi: 33-44
- Bartlett, Christopher. (1992). Regional variation in New
Zealand English: the case of Southland. New Zealand English
Newsletter 6: 5-15.
- Cryer, Max. (2002). Curious Kiwi Words. Auckland, NZ:
HarperCollinsPublishers (NZ) Ltd.
- Crystal, David (2003). The Cambridge encyclopedia of the
English language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Deverson, Tony and Graeme Kennedy (eds.) (2005). The New
Zealand Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
- Grant, L.E., and Devlin, G.A. (eds.) (1999). In other
words: A dictionary of expressions used in New Zealand.
Palmerston North, NZ: Dunmore Press.
- Kortmann, Bernd; Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Mesthrie,
Rajend; & Upton, Clive (Eds.). (2004). A handbook of
varieties of English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
- Leland, Louis S., jr. (1980). A personal Kiwi-Yankee
dictionary. Dunedin, NZ: John McIndoe Ltd.
- Orsman, H.W., (ed.) (1997). The Dictionary of New Zealand
English: a dictionary of New Zealandisms on historical
principles. Auckland: Oxford University Press.
- Orsman, H.W., (ed.) (1979). Heinemann New Zealand
dictionary. Auckland, NZ: Heinemann Educational Books (NZ)
- Trudgill, Peter and Jean Hannah. (2002). International
English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English, 4th ed.