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Series of three lectures to focus on NZ English

8 September 2005

Series of three lectures to focus on New Zealand English

Will New Zealand vocabulary be swamped in the process of globalisation?

That is just one of the questions that will be discussed in Christchurch this month in the Macmillan Brown Lecture Series.

The three lectures are open to the public, and will be presented by University of Canterbury adjunct senior fellow in Linguistics Associate Professor Elizabeth Gordon on “Finding your own voice: the English language in New Zealand”.

Professor Gordon is a sociolinguist with a special interest in all aspects of New Zealand English, as well as in English in education. She has published books and articles on New Zealand English, sociolinguistics and attitudes to language.

A Canterbury alumni herself, Professor Gordon taught at the University of Canterbury for 35 years and has continued to indulge her interest in language since retiring in July 2002. She co-authored New Zealand English: Its Origins and Evolution, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2004 and earlier this year she appeared giving expert commentary on a DNZ documentary called New Zild.

In the first lecture on 16 September, “Why do we speak the way we do?”, Professor Gordon will look at the development of the New Zealand accent. She will talk about the major research that she has been involved with at the University of Canterbury known as The Origins of New Zealand English (ONZE) project, and she will play samples of first-generation New Zealand-born English speakers from the Mobile Unit Archive recordings that were used in the ONZE research.

The topic of the second lecture, a week later on 23 September, will be vocabulary. In “Afghans and cheerios, kiwi and iwi” Professor Gordon will look at the words we use as Kiwis and explain the processes by which we extend our vocabulary. To do this she has picked out some words that were fairly new to her and will illustrate how each represents a different process by which our vocabulary is extended.

She will also look at the way in which Maori terms have worked their day into everyday New Zealand English and ponder the question of what effect globalisation will have on our distinctive New Zealand vocabulary.

The series will end with attitude on 30 September with “A whirlpool of impure vocalisation”. In this lecture Professor Gordon will look at the attitudes to New Zealand English from the time at which the New Zealand accent was first noticed around 1900 through to the present day.

Dating back to 1941, the Macmillan Brown Lectures are the longest running series of national lectures in the country. The annual lectures are given by an eminent New Zealand-based scholar at any of the university centres in the country on topics of New Zealand and Pacific scholarship, literature and art. They are administered by the Macmillan Brown board at the University of Canterbury’s Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies. Canterbury last hosted the lectures in 1998.

The Macmillan Brown lectures are named for the late Professor John Macmillan Brown (1846-1935), a founding Professor of the University of Canterbury and a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of New Zealand who spent a considerable time travelling and studying the countries of the Pacific.

All three lectures will be held at the Great Hall in the Arts Centre at 7pm.


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