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About New Zealand English Language

New Zealand English (NZE, en-NZ) is the form of the English language used in New Zealand.

The English language was established in New Zealand by colonists during the 19th century. The most distinctive influences on New Zealand English have come from Australian English, British English in Southern England, Irish English, Scottish English, the prestige Received Pronunciation, and the Māori language.

New Zealand English is close to Australian English in its pronunciation; there are, however, several subtle differences. One of the most prominent differences between the New Zealand accent and that of Australia is the realisation of /ɪ/: in New Zealand English, as in some South African varieties, this is pronounced as a schwa.

Historical development

A distinct New Zealand variant of the English language has been in existence since at least 1912, when Frank Arthur Swinnerton described it as a "carefully modulated murmur," though its history probably goes back further than that. From the beginning of the British settlement on the islands, a new dialect began to form by adopting Māori words to describe the different flora and fauna of New Zealand, for which English did not have any words of its own.

New Zealand English vocabulary

There are also a number of dialectical words and phrases used in New Zealand English. These are mostly informal terms most common in casual speech.

New Zealand adopted decimal currency in the 1960s and the metric system in the 1970s. While the older measures are understood by those born before 1960, younger New Zealanders have lived most or all of their lives in a metric environment and may not be familiar with pounds, ounces, stones, degrees fahrenheit, acres, yards, and miles, or pounds sterling, shillings, and pence - unless they have spent some time and effort studying foreign countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. However, that can be questionable.


New Zealanders will often reply to a question with a statement spoken with a rising intonation at the end. This often has the effect of making their statement sound like another question. There is enough awareness of this that it is seen in exaggerated form in comedy parody of working-class / uneducated New Zealanders. This rising intonation can also be heard at the end of statements, which are not in response to a question but to which the speaker wishes to add emphasis. High rising terminals are also heard in Australia, but are said to be more common in, and possibly originating from, New Zealand.

In informal speech, some New Zealanders use the third person feminine she in place of the third person neuter it as the subject of a sentence, especially when the subject is the first word of the sentence. The most common use of this is in the phrase "She'll be right" meaning either "It will be okay" or "It is close enough to what is required". This is similar to Australian English.

Māori influence

Many local everyday words have been borrowed from the Māori language, including words for local flora, fauna, and the natural environment. See Māori influence on New Zealand English.

The dominant influence of Māori on New Zealand English is lexical. A 1999 estimate based on the Wellington corpora of written and spoken New Zealand English put the proportion of words of Māori origin at approximately 0.6%, mostly place and personal names.

The everyday use of Maori words is usually colloquial, and is far more common among youth, young adults and Maori populations themselves. Examples include words like "Kia Ora" ("Hello"), or "Kai" ("Food") which almost all New Zealanders know.

Māori is also ever-present and has a significant conceptual influence in the legislature, government, and community agencies (e.g. health and education), where legislation requires that proceedings and documents are translated into Māori (under certain circumstances, and when requested). Political discussion and analysis of issues of sovereignty, environmental management, health, and social well-being thus rely on Māori at least in part. Māori as a spoken language is particularly important wherever community consultation occurs.

Dialects within New Zealand English

Recognisable regional variations is slight, with the exception of Southland, where the "Southland burr" (see above) is heard. This southern area formed a traditional repository of immigration from Scotland (see Dunedin). Several words and phrases common in Scots or Scottish English still persist in this area as well. Some examples of this include the use of wee to mean "small", and phrases such as to do the messages meaning "to go shopping".

Some speakers from the West Coast of the South Island retain a half Australian accent from the region's 19th century gold-rush settlers.

Māori retain a further variation of New Zealand English, with accents of varying degree, and tending to use Māori words more frequently. Bro'Town was a popular TV programme that exaggerated Māori, Polynesian, and other accents.


Where there is a distinct difference between British and US spelling (such as colour/color and travelled/traveled), the British spelling is universally used.

In words that may be spelled with either an -ise or an -ize suffix (such as organise/organize) New Zealand English, like Australian English, uses the -ise suffix exclusively[citation needed]. This contrasts with American English, where -ize is generally preferred, and British English, where -ise is more frequent but -ize is preferred by some (including the Oxford English Dictionary).

New Zealand favours the spelling fiord over fjord, unlike most other English-speaking countries. This is particularly apparent in the name of Fiordland, a rugged region in the country's southwest.


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