Developing a Mori language pronunciation tool
based on a Mori speaker database
Dr Peter J. Keegan, Dr Catherine I. Watson, Dr Jeanette King, Dr Margaret Maclagan,
Dr Ray Harlow
Mori is the only indigenous language of Aotearoa/New Zealand. It is
southern most Polynesian language, spoken by some 160,000 (~4% of
population. Mori is an endangered language despite significant efforts to
revitalize the language since the 1980s.
The pronunciation of vowels in Mori was changed over time. For example, /
u u:/ have become more fronted and /e e:/ have become more raised
Evidence for diphthong mergers between /ai/ and /ae/ and between /au/
and /ou/. There has been a loss of durational distinctions between long and
short vowel pairs. There is a significant difference in the vowels of the
present day youth compared to both the present day and historical elders.
The MAONZE (Mori-New Zealand) project team have been studying Mori
sound change over time, focussing on vowels and rhythm, attempting to
determine both internally and externally motivated change. Data includes
three groups of male and female speakers, historical speakers born in the
1880s, present day elders born between 1920 and 1944, and young speakers
born between 1969 and 1985.
Figure 1 The centroids of the Mori monophthongs in F1/F2 space for the
historical elders (black), present-day elders (dark grey), youth (light grey)
for female (left) and male (right) speakers.
MPai Language Aid
Motivation for language aid has been prompted by a large number of second
language speakers of Mori interested in improving their own pronunciation.
Mori pronunciation is not well taught, in addition the Mori sound system
is different to NZ English.
The aid is able to record and recognise a users Mori words, pronounced
in isolation. Currently there are only a small number of words in the aids
database, however additional words/lexicons and vowels can be added
to the MPai database.
MPai language aid is Windows based app, with three components
listening/video (vowels, words) vowel/word recognition, visual display of
user vowels via formant plot. The aid draws on the speaker database
developed by the MAOZNE project.
Figure 2 The left figure presents the MPai opening screen. Words and
vowels are played by clicking on the appropriate word or vowel. The right
figure presents a user recording their pronunciation of /u/, compared to
results from the native speaker database.
Figure 3 The left figure presents a user recording their own
pronunciation of a word, which is recognised and analysed by the aid .
The right figure presents the analyses of pronunciations of 7 words.
1 Trial (Late 2015) Results
Eleven participants, mostly fluent Mori speakers trialled the aid. Results were recorded using
Camtasia (video/screen capture software), with questionnaires and interviews. Participants liked the
visualizations of their own vowels and comparing themselves to native speakers. They liked listening
to words beings pronounced and watching videos of lip movements. It was also noted that they
learnt about tongue movements and the need to improve their pronunciation.
Figure 4 Presents participant
questionnaire. Participants generally
agrees that the aid was easy to use,
well designed and well integrated.
The aid was not thought of as too
complex or requiring too much
support to be able to use the aid
Further trials with a larger sample, on an
updated MPai version will be undertaken in
2016. Future versions are likely to be crossplatform and ported to tablets/smart phones.
The current MPai research is funded by a
University of Auckland (New Zealand) Strategic
Research Initiatives Grant (SRIF), 2015 to 2016.
Watson, C. I., Maclagan, M., King, J., Harlow, R.,
& Keegan, P. J. (2016). Sound change in Mori
and the Influence of New Zealand English.
Journal of the International Phonetics
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