Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Whakawhanaungatanga A-Reo: An Indigenous Grounded Theory for the Revitalization of Māori Language Speech Communities

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posted on 2022-07-27, 22:37 authored by Pohe, Ewan James

This study focuses on the role of adult Māori language acquisition in the revitalization of the Māori language. Māori language transmission is now primarily dependent on transmission through educational institutions. The objective of Māori language revitalization is to re-establish intergenerational language transmission. Language shift means that intergenerational language transmission of the Māori language has effectively ceased in Māori homes and communities. This means Māori once again becomes the primary language spoken in the home, neighbourhood and community domains. This is a report of a grounded study of an adult cohort of novice language learners. A group of mainly Māori who joined a Te Ataarangi total immersion programme where they were immersed in both the Māori language and the culture over a three year period. I was a participant observer of the cohort and collected data in the form of field notes and interviews on the experiences of its members. Following classical Grounded Theory Methodology (GTM) (Glaser 2002), I used constant comparative analysis of incidents to iteratively analyse the data and evolve the conceptual framework. The central finding of this study is the process of whakawhanaungatanga a-reo. I found that the shared objective in acquiring the Māori language for the cohort was to be able to use the language appropriately in ordinary communicative situations. The way their objective was met is represented in a three-stage process of whakawhanaungatanga a-reo. Whakawhanaungatanga a-reo is a process by which the cohort evolves from manene, to ako ngātahi and finally to a whānau ā-reo. At the manene stage, a novice learner is in a total immersion learning environment, their main inhibitor is whakamā. Whakamā is ameliorated by the tenet of ngākau māhaki which is an attitude of tolerance and caring propagated throughout the group. Ngākau māhaki facilitated trust relationships within the group. Ako ngātahi is the second stage of the process of whakawhanaungatanga a-reo. By the ako ngātahi stage, the Māori language was the default language of use amongst the class members. Building on the level of trust built between the group’s members developed at the manene stage meant that they felt comfortable enough to mahi tahi (cooperate) and interact intensively in class learning activities. These interactions were all mediated using the Māori language as the primary language of communication. Whānau a-reo is the last stage of the whakawhanaunga a-reo process. By attending wānanga with other classes, often in different regions of New Zealand, relationships between the groups continues to develop until finally the group transitions into a whānau a-reo. Learners who reach this point are confident to continue practising the language outside of the classroom environment with members of other Māori speaking communities; such learners are the basis of language revitalization.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Maori Studies

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 Maori Studies : Te Kawa a Māui


Higgins, Rawinia; Mercier, Ocean