Matua te reo, matua te tangata : speaker community : visions, approaches, outcomes : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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It is a well-documented fact that, globally, the number of languages spoken is diminishing. Māori is a threatened language. While much effort has gone into language revitalisation efforts to reverse language shift for Māori, in the past few decades it has focused on state as opposed to community mechanisms and community capacity has reduced. This is at odds with international evidence of the critical nature of intergenerational language transmission, a community-based strategy, in the achievement of language vitality. This research is about Māori language revitalisation and investigates how it facilitates intergenerationally sustainable health outcomes. It explores three main areas: the characteristics of Māori language revitalisation, the form of community development approaches used, and the Māori health outcomes that arise from language revitalisation practice. The research was located within a constructivist paradigm, took a qualitative approach, and applied a case study research strategy. Three case study groups that displayed features of language revitalisation participated in the research. They were: Te Ataarangi – nationally based; Te Reo o Whanganui – regionally based; and, Te Kōpae Piripono – locally based. The primary source of data was in-depth open-ended interviews carried out with knowledgable group representatives. This study has proposed a new term, speaker community, which signals a shift in understanding the process by which restoring vitality to a threatened language is achieved. First, language vitality is viewed as a state of language strength arising from the restoration of conditions that enable language use among a community of speakers where another language is dominant. Second, that language revitalisation is a community-level endeavour that provides a means to achieve language vitality. This research has also explained the role of language revitalisation in the achievement of positive Māori health outcomes. The framework ‘Matua te Reo’ describes the relationship between the core activities of speaker communities and the achievement of positive Māori health outcomes. The identified health outcomes underpin a secure Māori identity and are community defined. It is further argued that the sustainability of outcomes can be enhanced by encouraging a key language revitalisation approach based on the re-engagement of natural intergenerational transmission of language, culture and identity.
Maori language, Maori language revitalisation, Maori health outcomes, Maori health, Maori community, Maori identity