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CUP book

Finding Our Own Voice: New Zealand English in the making

20 November 2023

By Elizabeth Gordon


(Out of print)

July 2008
108pp, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-877257-77-3

Finding a New Zealand Voice was the title of three Macmillan Brown lectures delivered at the University of Canterbury in 2005 by Elizabeth Gordon.

Finding Our Own Voice New Zealand English in the Making

She discusses the development and evolution of the New Zealand accent from the earliest days, when the children of the early settlers spoke with the dialects of their parents, through the remarkably short period of time to when people began to accuse children and others of speaking with an odious ‘colonial twang’.

Various English dialects and Maori contributed to the mix to produce a unique New Zealand voice. Elizabeth Gordon writes about what people thought about the changes that were taking place. These attitudes to language also reflect the changing views about New Zealand’s relationship with Britain and about the development of a distinct New Zealand identity.

Recordings from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives can be listened to here (AnnieHamilton (MP3 509KB), BrendaBell (MP3 274KB)HannahCross (MP3 285)MaryAnn Turnbull (MP3 276KB)).
About the author:  

Elizabeth Gordon was born and raised in Christchurch. She can claim a great-grandparent who came out on one of the first four ships in 1850, and two forebears who came to the West Coast goldfields in the 1860s.  She has taught at the University of Canterbury since 1967, first in the English Department and later in the Department of Linguistics.

Her great interest is New Zealand English, especially our accent. She was a co-leader of the project on the Origins and Evolution of New Zealand English (ONZE) at the University of Canterbury. Now retired, she continues to carry out research into New Zealand English and writes a weekly column on language in the Christchurch Press.

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