Hawaiian Language Lesson

This page if for those of you who have absolutely no idea of what an ‘okina is...  So, for your basic information, here's a quick Hawaiian Language Lesson.  Have fun!


The Hawaiian Language consists of 13 letters:  a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, w & ‘okina.  The ‘okina is that little backwards comma you see before the "o" in front of the word " ‘okina ."  In English it's called a glottal stop, and produces a break in the sound when speaking.  It can appear at the beginning of a word or sandwiched in between two vowels.  It is never placed next to a consonant.  In Hawaiian, it is actually considered a letter because it takes up a space in the succession of a word, and the presence or absence of it can dramatically change the meaning of a word.  Here are some examples:  


ole = eyetooth; fang ‘ole = not, without, lacking; zero, nothing, negative
As in the name "Kalaniana‘ole", which many of you here in Hawai‘i know as a street that you don't want to get stuck on during traffic hour.  But actually it is named after one of the last Princes of the Hawaiian Kingdom.  His name means "the immeasurable heavens".  If you pronounce it without the necessary ‘okina, then you're calling him an immeasurable tooth.  How royal is that?
pio = captive, prisoner, victim, prey; conquered, captured pi‘o = arch; bent, arched, curved; to arch, of a rainbow
As in the name "Kapi‘olani".  Many of you just know it as a hospital here in Honolulu, but it was actually the name of one of our Queens.  Her name means "the heavenly arch."  It was a sign of her position, as arches and rainbows were associated with royalty.  Whenever anyone pronounces her name without the ‘okina, they are calling her a heavenly prisoner... shame!
ulu = to grow ‘ulu = breadfruit
You know I just had to use this one as an example!  I can't even begin to say how many times I've introduced myself or been introduced as "Ulu" and people say, "oh, breadfruit!"  Nope.  Sorry.  I'm not a breadfruit.  People like me don't grow on trees... 

As you can imagine, having only 13 letters in an alphabet would mean that these examples are just a few out of literally thousands of words that differ just by the placement of one, tiny little mark.  That's why I've decided that information on the Hawaiian Language was important enough to dedicate a page on my site to.  I try my best to always pronounce Hawaiian words correctly, and hopefully now you will all understand why. 

There is another grammatical mark in the Hawaiian Language called a "kahakö."  It is written as a straight line over a vowel and is used to elongate the sound of that vowel.  Although it isn't considered as an actual letter, the absence or presence of this can also change the meaning of a word.  But I won't go into that here because, frankly, I don't have the proper fonts on my computer at the moment.  :)

So that's it for your very, very, very basic Hawaiian Language lesson.  I hope you liked it!  Aloha!




     Rapa Nui Journal

     Picture Archive

     Language References


   Home          Rapa Nui Journal          Picture Archive          Polynesian Language References