Note: I have checked 3 beginners books on te reo Māori and none of them have brought up this point, because they all only address greeting an individual or “you” (kōrua/koutou). So, I don’t know if this might be a bit controversial and if the “wrong” option might not be considered wrong by everyone? I will go with my teacher’s guidance on this.
One of the mistakes that our kaiako picked up in our weekend noho was the common use of phrases in the incorrect form “Kia ora, whānau” rather than the correct “Kia ora, te whānau”. I had picked up on this usage a while back, but this is the first time anyone had mentioned it, and after thinking about it, I would say that “Kia ora, whānau” is not always wrong as such…
One of the things I find very interesting is the use of Māori words when speaking English, and twice as interesting is the transposition of those English versions back into te reo Māori. When speaking either English or Māori, whānau means family, both in the literal sense, but also in the sense of any connected group of people, for example your language learning class, or perhaps a club. In te reo Māori, whānau also means to be born, but this meaning hasn’t come over into the English usage of the word. I’m sure someone’s done a study on it, but it seems that its mainly nouns that transfer over into English, not the verbs.
So, if we look at English, we know you can say any of the following:
- Hello, George
- Hello, guys
- Hello, class
Thus it follows that, when speaking English, you can also say (where kia ora means hello):
- Kia ora, George
- Kia ora, guys
- Kia ora, class
- Kia ora, whānau
So, in English, the phrase Kia ora, whānau is correct – even though those are both Māori words, they’re effectively being used “in English” and this is how we structure English. Therefore I think it is technically acceptable to say, “Kia ora, whānau, this evening we’re going to …” because we are speaking English and using the words in their English usage and meaning.
However, when speaking te reo Māori, you can’t just have nouns hanging out unsupported; although there’s bound to be some sneaky exceptions, as a general rule you need a definite or indefinite particle (te, ngā, he), a possessive (taku, tōna, etc), and so on before your noun, supporting it. So in te reo, you need to say something like one of the following:
- Kia ora, te whānau
- Kia ora, e te whānau
So “in Māori” you might say, “Kia ora, te whānau, ā tēnei pō …”.
However, what tends to happen is that the “English usage” is used by people speaking te reo, where it is no longer correct. For this reason, even though it might be technically correct to use the English usage when speaking the English language, I think it is better to get into the habit of using “te whānau” in English, even if you’re just throwing it in there as a greeting to a bunch of English-only speakers.