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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

2 - Overview and background


In no other country was the speech of the children so good as it was in New Zealand … constant vigilance was the price to be paid for keeping the well of English undefiled in New Zealand.

(Mr John Caughley, Director of Education, cited in ‘English Undefiled: Is there an NZ accent?’, The Press, 5 February 1925)

There is not enough difference between the environments of the Englishman and the New Zealander to produce the existing difference in pronunciation. It should evidently be the teacher's aim to stay the process, and if possible restore to the New Zealand speech the culture it has unfortunately lost. We must, therefore examine the faults one by one and enumerate the definite sounds of English that the colonial ear has failed to catch and reproduce.

(Mr E. W. Andrews, ‘New Zealand English’, The Triad, 10 August 1910)

Overview of the study of New Zealand English

The English spoken in New Zealand has been the subject of comments since the early European settlers first began to notice new words and words being used in new ways. For example, in 1863 Samuel Butler (who later wrote the book Erewhon) wrote A First Year in Canterbury Settlement.

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