The English of Māori speakers: changes in rhythm over time and prosodic variation by topic.
Thesis DisciplineSpeech and Language Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Speech and Language Therapy
This thesis investigates the rhythm and mean pitch of the English of Māori speakers. Recordings are analysed from speakers who have varying degrees of fluency and socialisation in Māori. The rhythm and mean pitch of their English language recordings are measured and analysed in order to address two questions. The first part addresses the question, ‘Has the distinctive syllable-timed rhythm of modern Māori English developed from the mora-timed rhythm of the Māori language?’ Changes in the rhythm of the English of Māori speakers are measured over time. The rhythm of these speakers is then compared with age-matched Pākehā English speakers. The results show that the distinctive syllable-timed rhythm has indeed developed from the mora-timed rhythm of the Māori language and the use of this rhythm is related to the degree of Māori identity felt by the speaker. The second part is also concerned with prosody and addresses the question, ‘Are rhythm and mean pitch influenced by topic?’ This is investigated by topic tagging the recordings and comparing the rhythm and mean pitch of each tagged section of speech. Two sets of topic tags are used; Set One has tags representing five categories (Subject, Referent, Location, Time and Attitude) and Set Two has only one tag per topic. The results suggest that mean pitch is not influenced by topic but is higher in sections of quoted speech than in regular speech. The subtle variations observed in rhythm are highly individualised and are influenced most strongly by the referent of the topic and the degree of affinity felt towards that referent.