Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Lexicon of Public Sector Reform in New Zealand 1984 - 1994

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posted on 2021-11-12, 00:29 authored by Quigley, Katherine Jane

This is a study of the lexical effects on New Zealand English of the legal, social and economic changes brought about by the fourth Labour government and its successor during the decade from 1984 - 1994, during which period the New Zealand public sector was radically reformed. In order to carry out this study a corpus of approximately five million written words was compiled, consisting of three parallel sets of documents from four domains of use in the public sector. Chapter One provides the rationale for scoping the study both to this particular ten-year period and to the lexis of four particular government departments, namely The Treasury and the Ministries of Social Welfare, Health and Education. A review of previous related work in the field of lexicography, and the aims and specific research questions which motivated the study, are located at the end of this first chapter. Chapter Two explains the reasons behind the selection of three particular documents for use as data sources: the Annual Reports, the annual Corporate Plans, and the triennial Briefings to the Incoming Government. This chapter also describes the methodology used to determine words for inclusion in the glossary which is located in Appendix I. The advantages and pitfalls of the Google search method are discussed, as are the approaches taken to dealing with multiword units, proper nouns, abbreviations and words of Maori origin. The construction and arrangement of the glossary are explained here, including the basis for selection of citations. In Chapter Three an overview of each ministry's dataset is given in terms of its linguistic characteristics, and the results of the study are described. The penultimate chapter catalogues the discovery of a rich vein of figurative language throughout the documents of the New Zealand Treasury, as evidenced by varied and extended metaphors used to express economic concepts. This chapter gives a brief account of metaphor theory and discusses the methodology used for identification of metaphors in the dataset. The fifth and final chapter of this study sums up the overall findings and points the way towards useful future research in this field. A major part of this study consists of the aforementioned lexicon in Appendix I of New Zealand-specific words from these domains and their illustrative citations. This lexicon is a record of the NZE words used in a particular dataset in the public sector of New Zealand. It amounts to approximately 260 entries supported by 660 citations, which were collected via an exhaustive data search of three types of government document over one decade. These terms are not new in the sense that they first appeared in NZE during the decade of this study, but approximately two-thirds of them are new in the sense that they do not appear in any dictionary of English. This collection of terms constitutes a cultural and historical archive, which records the distinctive identity of New Zealand's public sector as it underwent a revolutionary era of profound political and economic change.


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


Kennedy, Graeme; Nation, Paul