Despite surface appearances, all established natural language
s possess the same structural complexity and efficiency in information transmission
. One matter that is easily derived from context in Mandarin
may be highly specified in German
, and vice versa
. Thus is the case of the Maori
noun in comparison to the general standards of Indo-European
languages. Relying greatly on the use of prefixing and suffixing particle
is almost completely devoid of the sort of inflection present in English (or worse, Latin
!) nouns. This simplicity necessitates an even more thorough grasp of existing patterns of grammatic usage for Maori nouns than might normally expected; you don't have as much wiggle room. This should serve as a general guide to the grammatic usage of the Maori noun and its place in the sentance.
Maori possesses a slightly fuller complement of articles than English, although they function in fairly similar fashion. The definite articles (the) are te for singular, nga for plural. It is used in all circumstances of a noun's grammatic position. The indefinite article, in both singular and plural form, is he. It can mark a noun functioning as subject, direct object, or indirect object. He can never be used after a preposition, a common occurrence in Maori since prepositions are extremely powerful compared to their English counterparts. The indefinite pronouns tetahi for singular (a) and etahi for plural (some) take its place. Tetahi displays a pattern common with all other demonstrative adjectives, words for concepts like this, that, that over there, etc., namely that the plural form is derived by chopping off the first consonant.
Maori nouns do not inflect for plural like English nouns. The word manu by itself can mean one bird, two birds, or many birds depending on context (Maori shares this quality with many other Oceanic languages and Japanese). Fortunately, an article or demonstrative usually accompanies nouns, making the number clear. Although it is not usually written, in spoken Maori the vowel of the first syllable of a word may be lengthened in the case of plural. So te manu would be 'the bird', whereas nga maanu would be 'the birds'. There are also irregular nouns which will double their first syllable when in plural, such as 'the house' te nui vs. 'the houses' nga nunui. Finally, there's the word 'child', tamaiti, which Gritchka astutely pointed out to me had an irregular irregular plural (hehe), tamariki.
Besides capitalization in writing, English doesn't make much ado about proper nouns verse regular nouns. Maori gets practically in a tizzy over them. When marking a proper noun such as a person, place, or respected thing as the actor (ergative) of the sentence, one must use the prefixing particle a. It does more than just mark the subject, it establishes the general topic of the sentence or reinforces a transition in focus (thus making it similar to the Japanese particle 'wa'). Unlike the particle wa, however, a can be used in compound with other particles, as it always is with prepositions of movement, possession, accompaniment, and location. Likewise for the predicate of a sentence, when ko must be used. Non-proper nouns do not make use of the same markers (but Maori considers a lot more things 'proper', so this isn't too confusing).
The quality of a noun, whether it is proper or non-proper, influences not only its grammatic markers, but also prepositional particles. For example, the possessive preposition will change depending on whether the possessor is proper (an actor capable of doing something) or not. In 'the goodness of that place', it will be Te pai no reira (notice that the possessive reflects the Japanese particle 'no' exactly. Coincidence? Probably), but for 'the goodness of Whakatane', it will be Te pai mo Whakatane. See Maori pronouns for more detailed information about this. Most prepositions have several different forms depending on whether the noun they modify is proper, non-proper, with or without an article/demonstrative, topical, or non-topical. It even extends beyond prepositions to pronouns on opposite ends of the sentence. Another example, 'that book is mine' where book is a proper noun, Maku tena pukapuka (literally 'mine that book') as opposed to 'those clothes are mine,' clothes being a non-proper noun, Moku ena pononga ('mine those clothes'). Rippling changes from the focus nouns of a sentence reinforce grammatic information that might otherwise be lost.
Maori nouns have vital use beyond merely the objects, places, or persons they define. By attaching the prefix 'whaka-' to any noun, one can make a causative mutation, implying a meaning of 'make into' or 'cause to'. For example, rongo (news) becomes whakarongo (to inform) or mutu (end) becomes whakamutu (make an end of). The result is a semi-verb that operates under its own rules separate from normal Maori verbs. Notably, whaka- isn't isolated merely to nouns, it can also be attached to adjectives, verbs, adverbs, damn near anything.
Harawira, K. T. Beginner's Maori. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1997.
There were originally some innacuracies in this node based off of a lack of information in the source book I used and a misunderstanding of source texts provided. Gritchka
helped to clear up much of this with his help on the grammatic qualities of Austronesian
languages; many, many thanks to him. I apologize for my failure to check my facts more thoroughly and any confusion that may have been caused.