Edward Tregear’s Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (1891), the work which made him a Fellow of the French Academy (according to this reference site, which misspells his name and thus is perhaps not entirely trustworthy), has been put online by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (which has put many other books online, including all 50 volumes of the Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War). From Tregear’s preface:

Regarding the Maori speech of New Zealand as but a dialect of the great Polynesian language, the Author has attempted to organize and show in a concise manner the existing related forms common to New Zealand and the Polynesian Islands. Several attempts have been made to produce a Comparative Polynesian Dictionary, but so gigantic was the labour, so enormous the mass of material, that the compilers have shrunk back appalled in the initiatory stages of the work, and all that remains of their efforts has been a few imperfect and unreliable pages of vocabulary scattered here and there through books treating of the Malayan and Pacific Islands. The present work is, at all events, continuous and sustained; it does not pretend to be a dictionary of Polynesian, but to present to the reader those Polynesian words which are related to the Maori dialect; using the word Maori (i.e., Polynesian, “native,” “indigenous”) in the restricted sense familiar to Europeans, as applying to the Maori people of New Zealand…
No small proportion of the labour expended upon this work was exerted in providing examples of the use of words, both in Maori and Polynesian. Many thousands of lines from old poems, traditions, and ancient proverbs have been quoted. The examples might more easily have been given by the construction of sentences showing the use of the particular words, but, rejecting made-up examples as being in practice always open to adverse criticism, preference has been given to passages by well-known authors, where the words can be verified and the context consulted…
Although the dictionary relates to the classification of Polynesian dialects proper, Malay, Melanesian, and Micronesian vocabularies have also furnished comparatives.

Many thanks to Stephen Judd, who called my attention to this work in a comment on an earlier entry.

Incidentally, the above-linked reference site also says that in 1891 Tregear became “the first secretary of Labour in the world,” and gives this pleasing anecdote:

During the 1913 waterfront & general strike, Edward sided with the strikers against the farmers’ constabulary recruited by Massey. Union historian Herbert Roth wrote, “There are those who remember him during the 1913 strike standing with blazing eyes in Cuba Street [Wellington] and shaking his fists at the mounted ‘specials’ shouting; ‘Go home! Go home, you ———- scabs!'”


  1. *blush*
    I would like to point out that most of the heavy lifting for the Electronic Text Centre code was done by my friend and former colleague Jamie, who knows Unicode inside out and backwards, and is the staunchest defender of strict markup and web standards you could hope to find. And these days, he’s studying linguistics! Readers might find his IPA Zounds software interesting too.

Speak Your Mind