About the Cook Islands Maori Dictionary

This Rarotongan and Cook Islands Maori Dictionary is built from the Dictionary compiled by Jasper Buse and Raututi Taringa. It was edited by Bruce Biggs and Rangi Moeka’a. Its preface states that it was produced for the benefit of Cook Islands Maori speakers.

However it is also a fantastic tool for those that are learning the Cook Islands Maori language, or trying to improve their level of fluency. What is particularly useful is the proliferation of example sentences – thousands of them, putting the language into use.

All Maori content has now been uploaded. English words have been added for the NG letters, and the rest are in progress. 

Introduction to the Cook Islands Maori Dictionary (from the book itself)

Maori, the language of the Cook Islands, consists of a number of mutually intelligible dialects spoken on the widely dispersed islands of the nation. The dialect of this dictionary is that of the main island of Rarotonga, but many words characteristic of other dialects are also identified.

The dictionary has been a long time in the making. Dr Jasper Buse of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London began this study of Rarotongan in 1957. From October of that year until April 1959 Mr Raututi Taringa, then a teacher in the Cook Islands, was employed by  the University of London to assist in the compilation of the dictionary. In 1960 Dr Buse spent time in Rarotonga where the administration had established and Advisory committee on Maori Language. He worked with that committee and other elders during his time there.

In the following years Dr Buse published four important papers on the structure of the Rarotongan language. They remain the only authoritative publications on the grammar of the language (see Bibliography).

Progress on the dictionary was steady but slow. When Bruce Biggs talked with Jasper about it in London he spoke of the heavy teaching load he had in the Department of General Linguistics in the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Dr. Buse died in 1985. The dictionary was in near final form up to the letter K, most of the remainder being a draft typescript. Biggs was approached by the Publications committee of the School of Oriental and African Studies to find an editor to prepare it for publication. Having the greatest respect for Jasper’s scholarship he decided to take the job on himself. The typescript reached Auckland in 1987 and the transfer to computer files was begun. A brief visit was made to Rarotonga to consult with the Minister of Education and to enlist the cooperation of Rangi Moeka’a who has linguistic training and is a recognised authority on the language. The Cook Islands Government seconded Moeka’a to the project, but for the most part he co-ordinated the editing from Auckland where Marjorie Crocombe, Director of the Centre for Pacific Studies and her staff provided administrative support.

The editors are grateful to many people in the Cook Islands for assistance and encouragement in their work. The Minister for Education, Mr Ngereteina Puna, and the secretary for Education, Mr Tuingariki Short, were enthusiastically and effectively supportive, as was Professor Ron Crocombe of the University of the South Pacific.

Special expertise was supplied by Gerald McCormack, who provided scientific identification of plants, birds and terrestrial fauna. Many of the illustrations were done by Judith Künzle and were made available by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project. Dr Ross Clark of the University of Auckland supplied Greek and Hebrew etymologies. Dr Rangiau Fariu checked biblical references. Koringo Pierre and Pipp Utanga Elia entered the dictionary onto computer files.

Dr Tom Dutton and his staff at Pacific Linguistics deserve every kind of praise for the copyediting of a manuscript that reached them bit by bit over a long period.

It is appropriate to record here the names of the members of the Advisory Committee and others in the Cook Islands who were associated with
the dictionary as consultants. Charlie Cowen, Marjorie Crocombe, Father Damien, Father Floribert Van Lier, David Hosking, Kapi Kapi, Tuatakiri Pittman, Taira Rere, Tangata Simiona, Mana Strickland, Vainerere Tangatapoto, Joseph Vati.

Financial assistance from the following sources, without which the dictionary could not have appeared, is gratefully acknowledged: the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, the Government of the Cook islands, the Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific, the Centre for Pacific Studies of the University of Auckland, the Australian South Pacific Cultures Fund, the Hunter Douglas Fund and the Canada Fund.

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