Moriori language

Moriori is a Polynesian language most closely related to New Zealand Māori. It is the native language of the Moriori, the indigenous people of New Zealand's Chatham Islands (Rēkohu in Moriori), an archipelago located east of the South Island.

Native toNew Zealand
Extinct1898, with the death of Hirawanu Tapu[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)


The Chatham Island's first European contact was with William R. Broughton of Great Britain who landed on 29 November 1791 and claimed the islands which he named after his ship, HMS Chatham. Broughton's crewmen intermarried with the women of Moriori.

The genocide of the Moriori people by Maori invaders occurred during the autumn of 1835. The invasions of the Chatham Islands left the Moriori people and their culture to die off. Those who survived were in some cases kept as slaves, and Moriori were not permitted to marry other Moriori or have children within them. This caused their people and their language to be endangered. There were only 101 Moriori people left out of 2000 who had survived in 1863.[3]

The invasion from Taranaki had a heavy impact on Moriori population, culture and language, with only 101 Moriori remaining in 1862,[4] and few speaking the language by the 1870s.[5] However, Samuel Deighton, Resident Magistrate on the Chathams from 1873 to 1891, compiled a short vocabulary of Moriori words, with their equivalents in Māori and English. The vocabulary was published as an appendix of Michael King's Moriori: A People Rediscovered.

The language was reconstructed for Barry Barclay's 2000 film documentary The Feathers of Peace,[6] in a recreation of Moriori contact with Pākehā and Māori.

In 2001, as part of a cultural revival movement, Moriori people began attempts to revive the language, and compiled a database of Moriori words.[7] There is a POLLEX (Polynesian Lexicon Project Online) database of Moriori words as well.[8]

The 2006 New Zealand census showed 945 people choosing to include "Moriori" amongst their tribal affiliations, compared to 35 people in the 1901 census.[9]

Comparison to MaoriEdit

The word a in Moriori corresponds to e in Māori, ka for ki, eriki for ariki (lord, chief), reimata for roimata (tear), wihine for wahine (woman), and more.[10] Sometimes a vowel is dropped before a consonant such as na (ena), ha (aha) and after a consonant like rangat (rangata), nawen (nawene), hok (hoki), or (oro), and mot (motu), thus leaving a closed syllable. A vowel is also sometimes dropped after a vowel in the case the preceding vowel is lengthened and sometimes before a vowel, where the remaining vowel is lengthened.[11]


  1. ^ "Hirawanu Tapu Peace Scholarship" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 January 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Moriori". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "The Genocide". Moriori Genocide. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  4. ^ Denise Davis & Māui Solomon (28 October 2008). "Moriori: The impact of new arrivals". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. NZ Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  5. ^ King, Michael (1989). "Moriori: A People Rediscovered". Auckland: Viking: 136. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ "The Feathers of Peace (2000)". Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  7. ^ Denise Davis & Māui Solomon (28 October 2008). "Moriori: The second dawn". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. NZ Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  8. ^ Greenhill, SJ; Clark, R (2011). "POLLEX-Online: The Polynesian Lexicon Project Online". Oceanic Linguistics. 50 (2): 551–559. doi:10.1353/ol.2011.0014. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  9. ^ Denise Davis & Māui Solomon (28 October 2008). "Moriori: Facts and figures". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. NZ Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  10. ^ Simon Ager. "Moriori Alphabet". Omniglot. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  11. ^ Taiuru, Karaitiana (2016). "Word list and analysis of te reo Moriori" (PDF). Retrieved 18 October 2018.

Further readingEdit

  • Clark, R. (1994). "Moriori and Maori: The Linguistic Evidence". In Sutton, D. (ed) The origins of the First New Zealanders. Auckland: Auckland University Press. pp. 123–135.
  • Galbraith, Sarah. A Grammar of the Moriori language.
  • Richards, Rhys (2018), Moriori: Origins, Lifestyles and Language, Paremata Press
  • Taiuru, K.N. (2016). Word list and analysis of te reo Moriori.