New book charts the near-demise of Te Reo Maori

A new book on the near-demise of Te Reo Maori in the 19th century hits the shelves in April, and readers can expect its contents to provide a thorough analysis into the various factors that nearly led New Zealand’s indigenous language to becoming a lost tongue.


Image credit: AUTKa Ngaro Te Reo, by Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Professor of History Paul Moon, represents a first on the topic of te reo Maori’s near extinction.

“The title of the book ‘Ka ngaro Te Reo’ stems from a Maori phrase,” explains Professor Moon. “Ka ngaro taua, pera i te ngaro o te moa - if the language be lost, man will be lost, as dead as the moa.”

“It’s hard to believe that in 1899, te reo Maori was in real danger of being lost forever, when only 99 years prior, it had been the only language that was spoken in New Zealand,” says Professor Moon.

Ka Ngaro Te Reo charts how the disruptive forces of colonisation experienced by Māori resulted in an adverse effect on the use of te reo Māori. Despite various attempts within small groups – churches and schools for example – to maintain the language, the increasingly European influence, culturally and socially, saw the language slowly disappear from many communities.

Image credit: AUTThe book gathers together a range of published and archival material, oral histories, and contemporary accounts by Maori.

“This is a critical piece of literature when it comes to being able to fully understand what went wrong in the lead up to 1899,” says Professor Moon. “More importantly, it may help us avoid the same thing happening again.”

Click here for more information on the book, and/or to purchase a copy.

About Dr Moon


Dr Paul Moon is Professor of History at AUT, in the Faculty of Maori and Indigenous Development. Among his twenty-five published books are This Horrid Practice: The Myth and Reality of Traditional Maori Cannibalism, A History of New Zealand in the Twentieth Century, a trilogy of volumes on the Tūhoe tohunga (expert) Hohepa Kereopa, as well as biographies of Governors Hobson, FitzRoy, and the Ngapuhi chief Hone Heke. His book Encounters: The Creation of New Zealand, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Ernest Scott Australasian Prize in History.