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Encouraging Mäori-speaking communities PhD focus

Encouraging more Mäori-speaking communities focus of PhD research

Mäori language revitalisation advocate Ruakere Hond has begun PhD research into the creation of Mäori-speaking communities.

Mr Hond, from Taranaki, was given the go-ahead to complete his thesis after a presentation in reo Mäori at Massey's Palmerston North campus last week.

Present were his doctoral supervisor, Professor Taiarahia Black, senior Mäori academics involved in teaching and research, fellow PhD students, senior Mäori management at Te Wänanga o Aotearoa and kaumätua Pani Waru.

Mr Hond is one of nine PhD candidates completing their doctoral theses in reo Mäori at Massey.

Professor Black says the attendance by a broad audience added to the vitality and validity of the presentation. He says Mr Hond's presentation was a poignant reminder that the future of reo Mäori needs to be planned for, defined by Mäori and can also be informed by leading international language revitalisation experts such as Bernard Spolsky (Israel), Joshua Fishman (New York) and Muiris O'Laoire (Ireland).

“Mr Hond's research will investigate two key issues, language revitalisation - community-based language initiatives, especially where language is passed to younger generations - and language reversal - institutional or legal avenues for developing language and its status," Professor Black says. "By emphasising these two areas of activity the thesis will pay particular attention to building communities of speakers.”

Mr Hond (Taranaki, Ngäti Ruanui and Te Ati Awa) is a long-time kaiako (teacher) with Te Ataarangi, a Mäori language learning system developed 30 years ago, and is a prominent member of Te Reo o Taranaki Charitable Trust. He was instrumental in developing the trust's Mäori language revitalisation strategy and online initiative. He has a Master of Arts from Te Whare Wänanga o Awanuiarangi and is a board member of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mäori (the Mäori Language Commission).

He says international revitalisation experts strongly advocate intergenerational language transmission and this has been well recognised for many years.

“Supporting positive environmental conditions for community development is less well acknowledged and so my research will focus at the whänau and community level and how initiatives create a supportive social context for speakers.

“Forming Mäori language speaker communities has been largely neglected [to date] as attention has tended to be given to institutional and legal approaches. Progress made in those areas now lends itself to return our gaze to a community level of language use, especially localised forms of language.”

Mr Hond will conduct his analysis on strategies for the retention and enhancement of local knowledge and study a number of successful models of learning Mäori within a community context. These will include groups such as Te Ataarangi, Mäori immersion schools and preschools, iwi and pan-tribal initiatives.

Professor Black says he is excited by the research, which will capture and highlight the language activities of the past 30 years, plot a course for the future and add to academic Mäori language writing.


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