Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

4 - Previous attempts to explain the origins of New Zealand English


Why there should be a general tendency [in New Zealand], as there undoubtedly is in Australia, to a Cockney pronunciation, when there must have been a very small proportion of the emigrants from Kent, whence this dialect has lately sprung, is a mystery still to be explained.

(Samuel McBurney, The Press, 5 October 1887)


In this chapter, we survey some of the attempts to explain the origins of New Zealand English that mostly predate the research reported in this book. The various theories are treated more or less in chronological order (although in the case of the lay explanations this is not possible, since they appear throughout the years). We believe it will be helpful for the reader if we present these ideas here in order to set the scene, as it were, for the analysis of the ONZE data presented in Chapter 6.

Apart from the lay theories and the notions of possible Maori contact, the various explanations are presented here without comment or assessment; they are discussed and evaluated in Chapter 7 in the light of the analysis of the ONZE data. Because discussions of the origins of New Zealand English are closely tied to discussions on the origins of Australian English, we also survey the main proposed explanations for the origins of Australian English.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO