The Secret to Pronouncing Māori Place Names

Aotearoa Road Trip Game of Maori Place Names“…it is my endeavour to add a little more light in order that this vexed question of pronunciation may be overcome.” wrote Henry Apatari in 1912.

“Needless to say the secret of it all depends entirely on the exact pronunciation of the vowels, as the consonants are pronounced, as in English.”

“A” is pronounced like “r” without the roll as characterised in a Scotch (Scottish) person;

“c” like “e” as in bear;

i” as “e”;

“o” like “or” without putting stress on the r;

u” as “oo” in hook.”

“It will always be noticed that every consonant is followed by a vowel, and that both are to be sounded together as in Ma-na-wa-tu. Should a vowel be at the beginning of a word or following another vowel it is to be sounded by itself as in A-wa-pu-ni and A-o-ka-u–te-re”

“Wh” is “f” and is followed by a vowel similar to the other consonants, so that “wha” sounds like “far,” as in Wha-ka-ro-ngo”

“Ng,” really representing one consonant, is sounded like the others with the vowel that follows it. Its pronunciation is the stumbling block of the language to all foreigners, and I am sure that however much and(sic) exact explanation is given on paper your readers will be none the wiser. Therefore, I may say that if regarded as “n,” that is to sound “nga” like “na” and “ngo” as “ne,” and so on, the Maori ‘people would accept and forgive you for the error.”

“In conclusion, I may point out that the slower each word is spoken in syllables the clearer and more exact you shall be.”


Extracted from a letter to the editor written by Henry Apatari and published under the title “Maori Place Names”  in the Manawatu Standard, Volume XLI, Issue 9277, 28 August 1912, Page 5.  Source:



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