From GrassrootWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Previous Page Next Page


Text Only

evident in the poetry utilized in the chants that are used in everything from ordinary greetings to the recitation of genealogies. Subtlety and personalization are further accomplished in chant by using special grammatical and pronunciation complications that make the message even less flat or blatant. 6/

Intense personalization of the language in itself has led to a proliferation of very specific terms, especially relating to natural beauty, which lends itseif well to Hawaiian poetry. An extreme example is seventeen individual names for various winds of tiny Haiawa Valley on the island of Moloka'i, in comparison to the North American continent as a whole, for which far less names are generally known by English speakers. There are, of course, many other wind names throughout the Hawaiian Islands, detailed rain descriptions, special seas, colors, and so on, as shown in Table 61.

Hawaiian attention to terms for life forms has impressed biologists in that it is based on the same principles invented for biological taxonomy by the Swede, Linnaeus (for example, ulua aukea, Caranx ignobilis; ulua 'ele'ele, Caranx melampygus). Hawaiian terminology goes even beyond the requirements of modern biology with special terms for different sizes of fish, recognizing four growth stages for some fish and fewer for others (for example, pua'ama, "mullet under a finger length;" kahaha, "mullet about eight inches long;" 'ama'ama, "mullet about twelve inches long;" anae, "mullet over a foot long").

The Power of Words

From a Hawaiian viewpoint, the factor that gives the Hawaiian language its most important cultural function is the philosophy of power in the Hawaiian word itself. This philosophy is codified in the saying i ka 'olelo ke ola; i ka 'olelo ka make, or (approximately) "language contains the power of life and death. In a Western context this concept might be understandable using as an example the psychiatrist's method of encouraging patients to articulate a problem in order to confirm) existence.

The basis of the Hawaiian concept is the belief that saying the word gives power to cause the action. For example, to say "I wish you good health" will actually help a person tc recover, while an expressed wish for death could actually cause it. Furthermore, a homonym or simile retains some of the power of the original word to influence events. Thus the word ola (good health, life), its partial homonyms like 'olani (to warm in the sun), and a poetic reference to it like kau i ka puaaneane (rest upon the flowering of the faint nreath of life, that is, old age) can all be symbolically helpful. The power of the word is increased by the seriousness and preciousness of the form in which it is offered, such as in a chant or formal speech.

The philosophy of the power of the word is developed to such an extent in traditional Hawaiian culture that there exists a contest of wits called ho'opapa in which poetic references, partial homonyms, and vocabulary knowledge are used in chant fern between two contestants to increase their individual powers and decrease the powers of the opponent. The loser of such a contest can theoretically submit his life to the winner. Although ho'opapa is an extreme application of the Hawaiian philosophy of the power of words, the concept permeates Hawaiian culture. 7/ The choice of negative words in songs and names is widely commented upon and talented speakers of Hawaiian can take a single word, name, or phrase and develop a speech around it by complicated play with connotations. Word power is even prominent in a custom of randomly choosing verses from the Bible and interpreting these through the form of the words therein.


Previous Page Next Page