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Utaina! Documenting the use of Māori in legal contexts since the 1820s

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Title: Utaina! Documenting the use of Māori in legal contexts since the 1820s
Authors: Boyce, Mary
Stephens, Māmari
Issue Date: 01 Mar 2013
Description: "Utaina!" This exhortation, attributed to Sir Apirana Ngata, BA and LLB, the first Māori be admitted to the legal profession in New Zealand, "commands that the precious heritage (i.e. the Māori language as embodied in quotations from the past) be recorded for study by the present and future generations."

The Legal Māori Project began in mid 2008, in the spirit of this statement of Ngata's. It documents the use of Māori in written legal contexts. It has produced a publicly available archive of legal texts from pre-1910, a legal lexicon, and a corpus of legal texts spanning the late 1820s to 2010. The major portion (c. 5.2 million words) of the c. 8 million word corpus is already available to the public, the remainder is being cleared for release. The vision for the future is to complement this with a spoken corpus of Māori in the legal domain. The final major output of the Legal Māori project is a dictionary of legal terms in Māori. The Legal Māori Dictionary is expected to be in print by February 2013.

Legal Māori language has changed over time. The use of Māori in legal contexts flourished from the 1820s to 1910. This was followed by a period of decline, and then a resurgence in the 1970s; this accompanied more general efforts to reverse language shift and revitalize the language.

Māori has customary legal terms, and retains these in contemporary times. It has acquired new terms at various times over the past 180 or so years. These acquired terms are especially noticeable in terms for Western legal concepts; many were borrowed from English. Customary legal terns and acquired legal terms have at times intermingled. Many terms, both customary and acquired, have changed in meanings or in their patterns of use over time.

In compiling the Legal Māori Dictionary we had to tackle this issue of change over time. This paper reports on aspects of that lexico-legal journey.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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