Kia ora matua: Humour and the Maori language in the workplace

Bres, Julia de; Holmes, Janet; Marra, Meredith; Vine, Bernadette
April 2010
Journal of Asian Pacific Communication (John Benjamins Publishin;2010, Vol. 20 Issue 1, p46
Academic Journal
Many aspects of the use of the Maori language are highly controversial in New Zealand, and humour is one way in which the sensitivities relating to the language can be negotiated in everyday workplace contexts. This article examines the use of the Maori language by Maori and Pakeha participants during humorous episodes at staff meetings in a Maori organisation in New Zealand. The episodes analysed include humour indirectly relating to the Maori language, where the language is not the topic of discussion but its use plays an important implicit role, as well as humour directly focussed on the Maori language, where use of the language is the explicit topic of the humour. Use of the Maori language in these episodes includes Maori greetings, pronunciation of Maori words, the use of Maori lexical items, more extended stretches of Maori, Maori discursive features, and lexical items in English with Maori cultural connotations. The Maori language is used in a humorous context by both Maori and Pakeha staff members, in similar and different ways. Humorous episodes using the Maori language appear to serve a range of functions, including releasing tension (e.g. relating to sensitive issues around the Maori language), marking ingroups and outgroups (and sometimes bonding between the two), referencing Maori cultural norms, and constructing Maori identity.


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