Wack‘y langu‘age

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

Hawai‘i has its own language, despite being an American state. It’s yet another reminder that this country is vast and made of crazily diverse people, cultures and ideas. Hawai‘i has been able to sustain its own language because it’s been a legal state of America for a mere 55 years. On one of the islands – Ni‘ihau – Hawaiian is still the main language spoken.

One of the rules of Hawaiian is that every word ends with a vowel. Because of this, “Hawaiian” can’t be Hawaiian (since it ends in a consonant), but is an Anglicisation of the adjective meaning “from Hawai‘i”. The language is vowel-heavy. It consists of just 12 recognisable letters, of which 7 are consonants and 5 are vowels. In addition, it employs a glottal stop, (called ‘okina, and considered to be an 8th consonant) that’s symbolised as an upside down apostrophe (like a tiny 6).

The joy of reading the Hawaiian language is that, in addition to throwing in gulpy glottal stops (for example, “please” in Hawaiian is “e ‘olu‘olu ‘eo”), there’s a ton of repetition. As an example, the state fish of Hawai‘i is the reef triggerfish, delightfully referred to in Hawaiian as the humuhumunukunukuapua‘a (and immortalised in High School Musical 2).

With that much repetition, it must take ages to get a whole sentence out.

About Natalie Gotts

I've been a management consultant, a nutritional therapist, a Journey practitioner and a mother. I've sold ostriches in China and personal safety devices in Hong Kong. Whatever I've done, and wherever I've been, I've written about it.
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