Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A Diachronic Exploration of the Harvesting of the Marine Environment to a Distinctive New Zealand English Lexicon, 1796-2005

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posted on 2021-11-15, 02:38 authored by Connor, Cherie Anne

This study examines the lexical contribution the harvesting of the marine environment has made to a specific New Zealand English lexicon from 1795 to 2006. It draws on a range of written sources including annual government reports, periodicals, and unpublished manuscripts. The identified words are compiled into a wordlist based on historical principles, which includes definitions and numerous citations of usage. The sea coast was an area of early economic activity in New Zealand, with whaling constituting one of our earliest industries, and its practitioners some of the earliest English speaking settlers. It remains an area of continued cultural and economic significance. Therefore, the compiled wordlist provides not just a repository of long forgotten words, but an historical account of a living language in an area of continued significance to New Zealand.

The body of New Zealandisms identified in this study are analysed systematically. Firstly, the lexical items are examined in seven 30 year time periods from 1796 to 2005 to determine changes in the number of innovations over time. The results show that the largest numbers of New Zealandisms were identified during the stages of early settlement, and in recent years. This suggests that New Zealand English continues to flourish at the lexical level, despite the threat which globalisation is perceived to pose to regional variation. Closer examination also reveals that lexical innovation in New Zealand is linked with New Zealand's growing sense of independence, and a dynamic orientation to the marine resource. In addition, a regional typology is applied to the identified lexis based on Deverson's (2000) model which shows when and how the innovation occurs, via coining and borrowing, or semantic shift. New words are examined to identify which word formation processes are the most productive. The categorisation reveals that lexical innovation in the area of marine harvesting is strongly focused on referents which are unique to New Zealand, and this is constant throughout the period studied. However, this reflects ongoing changes in the way that we label our unique referents, rather than the sheer number of unique referents. While new words are slightly more prevalent than semantic shift as a means of innovation in the marine domain, there is significant variation in this over time. That is, borrowing as a significant feature of lexical innovation during early European settlement is replaced in dominance by semantic shift as colonisation progresses. Since the 1970s, new words again dominate the form of lexical innovation, especially through the use of multi-word items employed to construct a complex management system. This impacts on the nature of the fisheries discourse and also our perception of the marine environment.

The study of the contribution of the marine harvesting lexicon to New Zealand English creates a cultural document in an area of social and economic importance. It also provides a body of words which is available for analysis. The results of categorising the identified New Zealandisms contribute to our knowledge of the nature of New Zealand lexical innovation, and how it has changed throughout the European settlement of New Zealand.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Bauer, Laurie