Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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He kōpara e kō nei i te ata / Māori language socialisation and acquisition by two bilingual children: A case-study approach

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posted on 2021-11-15, 15:50 authored by Hunia, Tessa Maraea

This thesis investigates natural Māori language socialisation and acquisition by two under-three-year-old children within bilingual settings in Aotearoa New Zealand, in which they were learning two languages simultaneously – te reo Māori (Māori language), the endangered indigenous heritage language, and English, a dominant world language.  The thesis explores how Māori language socialisation occurred for the two children, and documents the emergence of Māori grammatical structures in their productive language. In this longitudinal, qualitative case-study, data were gathered by regularly video-recording the children while they interacted with their families. Analysis of input- and productive-language data revealed that whereas English was the principal ambient language for both children at home and in the community, the language used directly with Child 1 was predominantly Māori, and with Child 2 was predominantly English. Analysis confirmed that Child 1 chose Māori as a principal first productive language, while Child 2 chose English.  Since the focus of the study was on te reo Māori, data gathered from Child 1 across 39 months were analysed from a language socialisation perspective. Wortham’s (2005) notion of “socialisation trajectory” was used to trace four “trajectories” as the child progressed towards cultural communicative practices such as the pūkana ‘wide eyes’ form of eye-talk, and towards kinship roles. She navigated, and sometimes diverged from, the expectations and guidance of her extended family (whānau), while accumulating participant roles and whānau values and responsibilities. Each trajectory was closely interwoven with the others, and also with the child’s language-acquisition trajectory, and thus contributed to her becoming an L1-Māori speaker. Linguistic analysis of the child’s “first words”, “first combinations” and “first sentences” revealed the emergence of Māori grammatical structures in her productive language, and led to a new “Phrasal acquisition of te reo Māori” hypothesis.  The findings direct attention to the important contribution, not only of the language environment but also of a rich, many-faceted process of cultural socialisation, in enabling a child to become a proficient communicator within her whānau and an L1-speaker of te reo Māori. The findings therefore contribute to a deeper and broader understanding of natural socialisation and acquisition of te reo Māori, and also carry important implications for the revitalisation of this, and other, endangered languages of the world.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Dalli, Carmen; Bauer, Winifred