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reduced the complexities of Polynesian morphology not found in European languages (for example, the loss of reciprocal verb forms and indefinite possessive pronouns, such as, respectively, Tongan--fekainga'aki, "be related to each other," and haku--"one of my"). Depending on whether one emphasizes consonants and morphology (as many earlier schools of American language scholars did) or vowels and syntax (as is becoming more popular in modern linguistics) Hawaiian at initial Western contact was either a simple or complex language. Like all Polynesian languages, however, Hawaiian has an elegant and pragmatically-balanced grammatical structure that eliminates many of the ambiguities of English. The pronominal, verbal, possessive, and demonstrative systems are particularly well-developed compared to English (as shown in Table 63). Dr. Samuel E. Elbert, one of the pioneers of Hawaiian and Polynesian linguistics, has even proposed that the pronunciation and structure of Hawaiian makes it a good candidate for a language of international communication like Esperanto.

Vocabulary and Written Form

The vocabulary of Hawaiian relating to traditional Hawaiian culture and the natural history of Hawai'i is extensive (over 25,000 words have been recorded in the Puku'i-Elbert dictionary). Contact with the rest of the world in 1778 created a need for an expanded vocabulary to describe new artifacts, technologies, diseases, and activities. The process of expanding vocabulary was already well established in the language and it was readily applied upon the arrival of the first Western ships. For example, ships were termed moku, a poetic term for a large exposed sea rock or small island; guns became pu, a term referring to large trumpet shell horns; and syphilis became known as kaokao, probably ar analogy with hakaokao, a description of rotting taro.

For some forty years Hawaiians rapidly developed vocabulary to describe new things with which they came into contact, by adapting traditional vocabulary and foreign terms to Hawaiian. Early vocabulary expansion was particularly great in matters relating to Western sailing vessels and technolooy. Hawaiian men were recruited in large numbers as crew members by visiting traders and whalers, with some commanding vessels for foreign owners as well as vessels acquired by the Hawaiian court.

It was not until forty-four years after the first Western contact that an attempt was made by Westerners to participate in the expansion of Hawaiian vocabulary. Calvinist missionaries from New England arrived in Hawai'i in 1820, with the altruistic intention of egotistically imposing their religion and culture on a people considered inferior and deprived, because of a religion and culture incomprehensible to Calvinists. It took approximately two years and the guidance of John Pickering's Essay on a Uniform Orthography for the Indian Languages of North America before the missionaries were able to start teaching Hawaiians a method of writing and reading their native lanauage. The experimental orthography that they used was most stable in its use of five vowel symbols (a, e, i, o, and u) and the exclusion of the English consonantal symbols c, q, and x.

Hawaiian language possessed sounds for which there were no consonant symbols in the English language. The confusing result was frequent interchange of consonant symbols that


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