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Moriori dialect facts for kids

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Native to New Zealand
Region Polynesia
Extinct 1898, with the death of Hirawanu Tapu
Language family
Writing system Latin

Moriori was a dialect of Māori, and the native language of the Moriori, the indigenous people of New Zealand's Chatham Islands (Rēkohu in Moriori), an archipelago located east of the South Island.


The Chatham Island's first European contact was with William R. Broughton of Great Britain who landed on 29 November 1791 and claimed the islands which he named after his ship, HMS Chatham. Broughton's crewmen intermarried with the women of Moriori.

The genocide of the Moriori people by Maori invaders occurred during the autumn of 1835. The invasions of the Chatham Islands left the Moriori people and their culture to die off. Of those who survived, some were kept as slaves, and some were subsequently eaten. Moriori were not permitted to marry other Moriori or have children with them. This caused their people and their language to be endangered. There were only 101 Moriori people left out of 2000 who had survived in 1863.

The invasion from Taranaki had a heavy impact on Moriori population, culture and language, with only 101 Moriori remaining in 1862, and few speaking the language by the 1870s. However, Samuel Deighton, Resident Magistrate on the Chathams from 1873 to 1891, compiled a short vocabulary of Moriori words, with their equivalents in Māori and English. The vocabulary was published as an appendix of Michael King's Moriori: A People Rediscovered.

The language was reconstructed for Barry Barclay's 2000 film documentary The Feathers of Peace, in a recreation of Moriori contact with Pākehā and Māori.

In 2001, as part of a cultural revival movement, Moriori people began attempts to revive the language, and compiled a database of Moriori words. There is a POLLEX (Polynesian Lexicon Project Online) database of Moriori words as well. A language app is available for Android devices.

The 2006 New Zealand census showed 945 people choosing to include "Moriori" amongst their tribal affiliations, compared to 35 people in the 1901 census.


  • a - [a]
  • e - [ɛ]
  • i - [i]
  • o - [ɔ]
  • u - [u]
  • ā - [aː]
  • ē - [ɛː]
  • ī - [iː]
  • ō - [ɔː]
  • ū - [uː]
  • p - [p]
  • t - [t]
  • k - [k]
  • m - [m]
  • n - [n]
  • ng - [ŋ]
  • wh - [ɸ]
  • h - [h]
  • w - [w]
  • r - [r]

Comparison with Maori

The word a in Moriori corresponds to e in Māori, ka for ki, eriki for ariki (lord, chief), reimata for roimata (tear), wihine for wahine (woman), and more. Sometimes a vowel is dropped before a consonant such as na (ena), ha (aha) and after a consonant like rangat (rangata), nawen (nawene), hok (hoki), or (oro), and mot (motu), thus leaving a closed syllable. In this regard, it is similar to the Southern dialects of Māori, in which apocope is occasionally found. A vowel is also sometimes dropped after a vowel in the case the preceding vowel is lengthened and sometimes before a vowel, where the remaining vowel is lengthened. The consonants [k], [h], and [t] can sometimes be aspirated and palatalised, such as Motchuhar instead of Motuhara.

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