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Aloha ahiahi, Hawaiian!

Week 24, Episode 48

Hawaii—hibiscus, plumeria (that yellow-to-white five-petals flower), ukulele, hula (the dance), lei (a garland of flowers to put around a neck) and waves. Life seems such a breeze there that even the Hawaiian language was formed with the minimum amount of letters—12, the shortest alphabet in the world!

The Hawaiian language was only oral up until 1820, when Christian missionaries from New England arrived and needed a system to teach the locals read. At first, the alphabet was quite English-like (duh!), but later the unnecessary letters and sounds they create that are not used by the Hawaiians were eliminated and only 12 remained.

As more and more foreigners flouded Hawaii, the status of the Hawaiian language fell and that of the English rose. For about 80 years since 1885, Hawaiian was neglected and somewhat restricted. However, now the language that was on the brink of extinction is being revived and gradually returning its positions and power. About that (2 minutes):

Hawaiian is the Polynesian language and there are some rules it adheres, 100%:

  1. Every word must end in a vowel and every syllable must end in a vowel.
  2. No two consonants can be pronounced without at least one vowel between them (one exception: KristoChrist).
  3. Any amount of vowels may be used together; for example, hooiaioia (ho-o-ya-yo-ya), which means "certified", or oiaio (oh-ya-yo)—"truth."

The Hawaiian is rich in descriptive terms, for rains, winds, etc. There are six words meaning "to carry": hali, auamo (on the shoulder), kaʻikaʻi (in the hands), hii (in the arms), koi (on stick between two men), and haawe (on the back).

Such an expression as "across" in English is difficult to express in Hawaiian. Mai kekahi aoao a i kekahi aoao ae, is perhaps the shortest way in which such a concept as "across" may be expressed.

On the other hand, many words in Hawaiian (due to the little amount of the letters) have diverse meanings. I bet you knew, for example, about Aloha used as "Hello" AND "Goodbye", but you probably didn't know that the same word stands for "love": Aloha au iā ʻoe (ah-loh-kha ah-oo ee-ah oye)—"I love you."

Mingling with English, Portuguese, Cantonese, Hawaiian gave birth to its creole version—Pidgin—existing alongside with the Hawaiian language and fighting for its right to be considered as a separate language. Pidgin is widely used in everyday casual conversations by the locals. Examples? Here (5 minutes):

The word Da kine (Duh ky-n) is the essence, a keystone, the most identifying characteristic of spoken Hawaiian Pidgin. You can use it anywhere, anytime, anyhow. You say "Da kine" (derived from "the kind") when you cannot think of a word, when it is likely that the listener will understand what is meant from context or a combination of context and body language.

If you watch movies and cartoons or are into surfing, you probably know these Hawaiian words already:

  • Kahuna (Kah-khoo-nah) — Hawaiian priest, wizard, or shaman,
  • Lūʻau (Loo-ah-oo) — Hawaiian feast, party,
  • Mahalo (Mah-khah-loh) — Thank you,
  • Mana (Mah-nah) — magical or spiritual power,
  • ʻOhana (Oh-khah-nah) — family,
  • Waikiki (Vy-kee-kee) — spurting water,
  • Shaka (Shah-kah) — a hand gesture by extending the thumb and the pinkie finger while holding the three middle fingers curled; used to convey friendship, understanding, compassion, and solidarity.

I was wondering at the Hawaiian love to the evenings expressed in a word full of admiration and awe—ahiahi (ah-khee-ah-khee) meaning "evening"—and not so much passion for the mornings in the unhappy sound of kakahiaka (kah-kah-hee-ah-kah) meaning "morning" :)

I don't how in your language, but in Russian "kaka" means #2, so...

More about Hawaiian specific wording and its structure in upcoming episodes! Stay tuned for mana of the Langventure! Shaka! :)

Ukali au! (Oo-kah-lee ah-oo) Follow me!

" Aloha! Put your likes! Mahalo! Aloha!"

Discover more about Hawaiian and other languages at!

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