Accepted Paper:

Words Escape Us  


Joan Metge

Paper short abstract:

Maori words adopted into New Zealand English are typically used with reduced meanings, losing the full range of original meanings and subject to further change. Can such changes be controlled? Are words ultimately unownable?

Paper long abstract:

Over the last twenty years increasing numbers of Maori words have entered the lexicon of New Zealand English as Maori fighting to keep their language alive use both important and everyday words when speaking English, and non-Maori accept and use them too. Is this appropriation, exchange or something else? In the early stages of the process, these words are given one or two word glosses in print media; these reduced meanings become entrenched in usage and the range and connotations of the original meanings are lost. Sometimes these reduced meanings are fed back into Maori usage. In time non-Maori speakers experiment with these 'borrowed' words, giving them new including metaphorical applications. This paper explores this process and its positive and negative consequences and asks: to whom do words belong? Can 'borrowing' be controlled and by whom? What responsibilities do anthropologists carry? Or are words ultimately unownable wealth?

Panel P42
Cosmopolitanism and the appropriation of culture