Wednesday, 6 March 2013

New Zealand

Aotearoa is the current Māori name for New Zealand, and is also used in New Zealand English. It is unknown whether Māori had a name for the whole country before the arrival of Europeans, with Aotearoa originally referring to just the North Island. Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and called it Staten Landt, supposing it was connected to a landmass of the same name at the southern tip of South America.

In 1645 Dutch cartographers renamed the land Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. British explorer James Cook subsequently anglicised the name to New Zealand. Māori had several traditional names for the two main islands, including Te Ika-a-Māui for the North Island and Te Wai Pounamu or Te Waka o Aoraki for the South Island. Early European maps labelled the islands North, Middle and South. In 1830 maps began to use North and South to distinguish the two largest islands and by 1907 this was the accepted norm.

The New Zealand Geographic Board discovered in 2009 that the names of the North Island and South Island had never been formalised, but there are now plans to do so. The board is also considering suitable Māori names, with Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Wai Pounamu the most likely choices according to the chairman of the Māori Language Commission.

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