Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe me he maunga teitei: Establishing psychological foundations for higher levels of Māori language proficiency

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posted on 2021-11-14, 05:55 authored by Te Huia, Awanui

This thesis explores the motivations, enablers and inhibitors that occur for heritage language (HL2) learners of te reo Māori. Rather than applying commonly used integrative/instrumental or intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomies (Gardner, 2007), a relational framework for language motivation was applied as Māori are typically represented as being interdependent/collectivist (Durie, 2001). In interdependent cultures, the self is given meaning through relationships with significant others (Brewer & Chen, 2007) and the boundaries of personal goals and the goals of a group/significant others are less distinct (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). It was predicted that HL2 learners would be motivated to learn te reo Māori in response to the relationships they held with significant others, and that these relationships with significant others would enable learners to reach higher levels of language attainment. The investment language-learners received from peers and mentors was expected to contribute positively to the learning process. Thus, a relational and interdependent approach to Māori HL2 learning is articulated. A mixed methods approach was applied to examine the variety of motivations, enablers and inhibitors associated with HL2 learning. Qualitative aspects of the research involved two groups of language-learners. Undergraduate students (beginner to intermediate level language-learners) enrolled in language courses at Victoria University of Wellington participated as well as advanced level learners who were graduates of Te Panekiretanga o te reo Māori. All participants in the qualitative aspects of the study identified as Māori HL2 learners. The quantitative components included both Māori and non-Māori undergraduate students who were predominantly 100 level learners from Victoria University of Wellington. Findings revealed that Māori HL2 learners were motivated to learn the language due to relationships they held with specific significant others. Responsibilities provided significant motivation for language improvement at higher levels. The relationship between te reo Māori and identity was prominent. Societal factors impacted on both Māori and Pākehā learners separately. For instance, Māori were less likely to instigate learning te reo Māori when they were embedded in environments that were discriminatory toward Māori. Quantitative results supported qualitative findings, whereby Pākehā learners who perceived Māori to be negatively discriminated against by the mainstream experienced high levels of language anxiety. Survey data indicated that Māori HL2 learners were more tenacious, and less disorganised with their language studies when they had language community support, and were engaged with other Māori. Findings from this study led to the development of Te Mauri ka Tau, a model that attempts to describe the factors that are necessary to create a psychological platform from which Māori HL2 learners can seek empowerment during times of potential risk. This model also describes the multiple positive outcomes for HL2 learners who reach this psychological space. This study was designed to provide an indigenous perspective to the highly emotional process of HL2 learning. The journey for Māori HL2 learners is complex and relationally interdependent. Through an improved understanding of HL2 learner experiences, the wider goals of language revitalisation can be achieved.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and the Cognitive sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Liu, James; Higgins, Rawinia