- John guys like help.
- (John and his friends want to help.)
- Funny kind this fish.
- (This fish is unusual.)
- The wahine stay hapai.
- (The lady is pregnant.)
Pidgin was not spoken as a first and native language by anyone until about 1910. Much of the popular English press and initial study of the language in the 1930s attributed it to a simple mixture of English and the languages spoken on the plantations. This simplistic explanation cannot explain the strong Hawaiian flavor of the language in terms of grammar, intonation, stress, and vocabulary, when Hawaiians were such a tiny minority in the plantation work force. Recent research 27/ has shown what even the haole plantation owners of the monarchy period recorded: that broken Hawaiian, not broken English, was the language of the plantations; and pidgin was originally a form of Hawaiian. Broken Hawaiian was used not only on the plantations, but to speak with anyone who had a poor command of Hawaiian, including haole residents of Hawai'i. There were of course many non-Hawaiians who spoke Hawaiian well during the monarchy through the turn of the century, and there were even non-Hawaiians who spoke Hawaiian better than their ancestral languages, because Hawaiian was the language of the community in which they were raised. The broken or pidgin language was quite common, however, due to the great influx of immigrants with the rise of the sugar industry.
At the turn of the century, English and Hawaiian words started to become interchanged more frequently in pidgin and, as the twentieth century progressed, English vocabulary came to predominate. Much of the structure and pronunciation of the basic broken Hawaiian remained, along with much Hawaiian vocabulary, some of it restricted to use in broken Hawaiian (for example, kaukau—"food", "eat," versus normal Hawaiian mea'ai— "food," and 'ai-- "eat"). About 1910, children started to use this language among themselves, and developed greater strength in it than they had in their parents' languages or the proper English language that was taught in school. This process, termed creolization, involved all Hawaiian children (except those of Ni'ihau) by 1920, as well as the children of the immigrant plantation workers. 28/ Creolization resulted in a pidgin that grew more complex in its grammar, sound system, speed of delivery, and ingenuity of slang.
Creolization of pidgin was the perfect tool for local children to resist the campaign to force them to speak English. Pidgin is English, and yet it really is not. Thus, the children were able to comply with the heavy campaign to make English the language of the territory and still not truly cooperate with what Hawaiians saw as persecution of their own language, nor identify linguistically with the haole group who were viewed as more concerned with their own power than with the rest of the population on human terms.
Pidgin is also Hawaiian, and yet not really Hawaiian. This also suited the children. The identity with Hawai'i and the Hawaiian people was a very positive thing not only for the Hawaiian children themselves, but also for the immigrant children who saw themselves as different from their foreign parents. The fact that the language was not really Hawaiian was important in that it distanced Hawaiian and immigrant child alike from the picture of a primitive stone age race doomed to die, which was