Summer research scholar Louise Stevenson has spent her time collecting linguistic data from Twitter and the web in order to analyse how te reo Māori loanwords are being used online in the science sphere. Her research is part of a bigger project by Dr. Andreea Calude looking at Māori loanwords in New Zealand English.
The work has focused on material published on the National Science Challenges’ websites and Twitter accounts. The entire inventory contains over 1,500,000 words.
The top ten most frequent Māori loanwords found in the corpus are: Māori, Mātauranga, Hapū, Whenua, Whānau, Kaitiakitanga, Kai, Kāhui and Aotearoa.
Though some words (Māori, Whānau) were expected, Louise says the biggest surprise was ‘Mātauranga’, which means wisdom or knowledge. It is perhaps connected to the title of one of the National Science Challenge frameworks, but she says it may also be growing in use in the wider science genre or New Zealand English in general. Recent research indicates more te reo Māori words are being used in English than ever before, and the data echoes that.
New technology means that information from social media such as Twitter can be collected with ease, and Louise says collecting material from social media has the potential to really kick off as a result. She is interested in the potential for mining the growing medium. “In some ways social media is a different representation of ourselves, different to both formal written English and spoken English. That’s been exciting to work with.”
While she has been carrying out her research, debate has been raging in the public about the use of te reo Māori. She says it has made her work even more interesting. “It’s been really cool, because it shows how relevant the work is.”