This project began in 2019 and is ongoing.

One of the markers of excellence in te reo Māori is the depth and breadth of one’s vocabulary, however this presents a challenge for even the most fluent of non-native speakers. The aims of this research project are to identify the gaps in the te reo Māori lexicon in terms of everyday language needed by second-language learners and families raising their children in te reo Māori, to understand why these gaps exist, and to uncover the most effective methods of word recovery, revival, borrowing, and creation to “fill the gaps”.

The following questions will guide the research:

  1. What are the gaps in our collective, documented vocabulary (that is, our te reo Māori lexicon) in terms of everyday language needed by families in their intergenerational transmission of the language, and by second-language learners, in order to fully describe their world?
  2. Why do these gaps exist?
  3. What are the most effective methods to fill these gaps (e.g. recovering and/or reviving traditional words, coining new words, borrowing words) and how can we identify which method suits each group of words?
  4. How has the process of generating new Māori words changed over time, particularly in relation to political and social changes (e.g. changes to the mandate of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the emergence of te reo Māori social media groups)?
  5. What opportunities exist to borrow traditional words, where appropriate, from our Polynesian whanaunga (relatives) to add to our lexicon? How can a culturally suitable process be implemented to ensure that this borrowing does not lead to ‘appropriating’?