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


Text Only

with Hawai'i and even emigration will not change that. A consequence of this obligatory local identification that Hawaiians carry is a stronger attachment to pidgin among Hawaiians than among other ethnic groups. This attachment has been observed by linguists who have noticed an increase rather than a decrease of pidgin features in the speech of Hawaiians in recent years.

One of the ironies of pidgin is that the present pidgin-speaking generation is often observed as speaking poorer English than the native Hawaiian speakers educated in English at the turn of the century. It has also been observed that with all the exposure of modern-day Hawaiians to Standard English on television, newspapers, and in the American school system, citizens of small Pacific Island nations preserving their indigenous languages often speak better English than the "civilized" Hawaiians. Something is clearly wrong when the Hawaiian language has been sacrificed in the name of the English language and instead of a great leap forward in terms of benefits in English, there appears to be a regression.

One explanation for this situation is the fact that the Hawaiian-speaking Hawaiians and indigenous language-conserving Pacific Islanders look upon learning English in a different way than pidgin speakers do. For speakers of full Polynesian languages, learning English is simply a skill. For the pidgin speaker, learning Standard English represents a threat to his identity and the identity of the group, because that identity is maintained by not using Standard English pronunciation, vocabulary, intonation, and so forth.

A second explanation for the impressive English of Hawaiians of the monarchy period and citizens of several modern South Pacific nations is that the British English favored by them for their schools has greater status than the American English taught in contemporary Hawai'i schools. Although not generally considered by educators in Hawai'i, American English has less prestige than British English internationally, and although the difference in status is not as great as between pidgin and Standard English, the added status of British English can make a South Pacific Islander of equal intelligence to an ordinary American appear more intelligent, even to other Americans. For the same reasons that pidgin speakers feel attached to their dialect of English, American speakers are attached to their dialect of English and have not adopted the higher status British form of the language. Speakers of Hawaiian during the monarchy had no allegiance to any dialect of English, be it American, British, or Australian. It was only natural for them to feel that if they were going to learn the English language, they should learn the dialect that would give them the most prestige, and therefore serve them the best. From that point of view, their choice of British English as their dialect of English was a logical one.

Perhaps the strangest feature of the replacement of Hawaiian with pidgin is how it has been reflected in Hawaiian behavior. This feature really has nothing to do with pidgin per se, but with the image of Hawaiians as depicted through the medium of English. In an attempt to assert their distinct identity from the English speakers, some Hawaiians have consciously or subconsciously tried to live up to what the English-language literature describes


Previous Page Next Page