Ka `Olelo Hawai`i

(The Hawaiian Language)



In my humble opinion, the Hawaiian language is the most beautiful language in the world. My first exposure to the first language of our Islands, as a youngster in Minnesota, was listening to the one or two expressions of greetings and farewell that opened and closed the famous "Hawai`i Calls" radio shows in the 40s and early 50s. I was more apt to hear Norwegian from my parents and other family and friends, or Swedish from our neighbors.
         Many of the songs on "Hawai`i Calls" were sung in Hawaiian, but I don't recall that I understood more than the occasional Hawaiian word that Webley Edwards translated for us. But it was enough to peak my interest and over the years since then, I have found that my love of this Polynesian language continues to grow, every day.
         Mahalo to scholars Mary Kawena Puku`i, Samuel Elbert and many others who set the stage for the renaissance we now enjoy.
        I thank the many manaleo, native speakers, who helped me learn Hawaiian, especially Uncle Jimmy Kaholokula, Aunty Alice Namakelua, Aunty Edith Kanaka`ole, Uncle Sam Kong Kee, Sol K. Bright, Dorothy Kahananui, Napua Stevens, and others.
        Mahalo also to the many fine teachers of Hawaiian who helped me while I was studying the language at Honolulu Community College and the University of Hawai`i at Manoa--including Mileka Kanahele, Pua Hopkins, Edith McKinzie, Kawehi Lucas, Tuti Kanahele, `Ioli`i Hawkins, Rubelite Kawena Johnson, Kamoa`e Walk, Laiana Wong and others.  
       Thanks also to the many students of Hawaiian--my classmates--who worked with me to learn, and who shared so willingly, and to all those who speak Hawaiian, regardless of their age, rank, station, or degree of fluency.
       Mahalo to the great composers of Hawaiian songs, to the kumu hula, the musicians, and others who have had a profound effect on my relationship with the language and music of Hawai`i nei.
       Mahalo to those who compiled the dictionaries, who wrote the text books, to the librarians, translators, and to the many writers, editors, and scholars of old Hawai`i, whose writings in the Hawaiian language newspapers of the 19th and early 20th century serve as a continued inspiration to me.    
       Mahalo to those who have dedicated their lives to the perpetuation of the language and the music, including all those who have worked to establish and continue such institutions as Punana Leo, Kula Kaiapuni, Ahahui `Olelo Hawai`i a pela aku. Thanks to the many institutions who have added Hawaiian language to their curriculum, including the UH and its many two- and four-year campuses, BYU-Hawai`i, Chaminade University, the many high schools and now even some middle schools where Hawaiian is offered.
       Mahalo a nui loa to Star of the Sea Schools for adding Hawaiian to the curriculum and for allowing me to teach the language to the young ones, and to Hui O Kamalei, where I was able to share the language with the alaka`i and na haumana.
       Thanks also to KCCN radio for more than 20 years of broadcasting "Ka Leo Hawai`i" and to those who founded and continue that weekly Hawaiian language talk show. Thanks to `Olelo Corportation, community television, that has made time and production facilities available for Hawaiian language programming and instruction, and to those talented kumu who have put those shows together.
       Mahalo to Hawai`i Public Radio (KHPR/KKUA/KIPO/KIFO) for allowing me to start "Ke Aolama," the first-ever Hawaiian language radio news program in 1994; the "Hawaiian Word of the Day" and "Hawaiian Phrase of the Week" features; "A Hawaiian Sunday With Keith Haugen," "The Music of Hawai`i" and other programming that helped the community expand its knowledge and enjoyment of the language and music of Hawai`i.
       Mahalo to the many underwriters who have helped me put these features on the air--especially Pioneer Federal Savings & Loan (for "The History of Hawaiian Music") and to Namelab Inc, Ira & Linda Bachrach, George Winston, Ben Churchill, and Dancing Cat Records, for more recent support.
       I could write a book about those who were the real leaders in this renaissance (and I just might do that), and those who continue today to do so much for the language and culture. And just the names of those who have come on board in more recent years could fill another volume.
       On this page of our HawaiianSong.com web site, you will find articles about Hawaiian language, changes in the language, and more. We'll include opinions (naturally) and some suggestions that we hope will be helpful. We will feature the writings of some of the great scholars of Hawaiian, sharing with you some of the thoughts of the teachers, lexicographers, lexicon committee, composers, researchers, and others whose opinions we value. We hope it will grow into a focal point for those of you who are interested in the language, music, dance, names and more. And we will try to include links that will take you to other Hawaiian language sites that we feel are worthwhile.
       Check in from time to time to see what we've added.

      `A`ole au i poeko i ka `olelo Hawai`i, aka, mahalo au i kela `olelo mua o keia pae`aina. He haumana au. Kama`aina au i kela me keia mau mea no keia `olelo nani a me na mea Hawai`i like `ole. Hiki ia`u ke a`o aku i keia `olelo, me ke kokua o na loea a pau. Hiki ia`u ke haku i keia `olelo, me ko lakou kokua. Hu wale no ko`u aloha no keia `olelo a hiki i ko`u la hope loa. Nui ko`u aloha no keia mea. `O ke aloha no ka `olelo ka mea ma`a mau, `ae, ka mea nui i loko o ko maua hale ma ke kualono. Mai poina `oe . . . haole wale no ko`u `ili, aka, i loko i ka na`au, Hawai`i wale no.

Keith Haugen

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By Samuel H. Elbert

"Whence come we? Who are we? Where are we going?"

This is the title of a famous painting by Paul Gauguin, depicting three beautiful Tahitian women face to face with this dilemma. The same questions could be applied to Hawaiians. Today we know more about answers to the first of the three questions than the Tahitians of 1898 knew and just as little about the last.

Wild theories in vogue at the turn of the century about the origin of the Polynesians have been discarded by all recognized scholars, none of whom now believe that the Polynesians are the lost tribe of Israel or that their languages are related to Hebrew in Israel, Hindi in India, Finnish in Europe or Quechua in Peru.

We now know that the Polynesians' physical type, customs and especially languages developed within Polynesia. We no longer think that someday a tribe speaking a language like Tahitian or Hawaiian will turn up in a Himalayan village, a Borneo jungle or on a Peruvian mountainside.

We can even pinpoint the place where the distinctive culture, race and languages of the Polynesian people developed--somewhere in the Tongan area or possibly near Fiji--several centuries before Christ. After living in the central Pacific for many centuries, the bold and restless Polynesians sailed eastward, probably to the Marquesas Islands, anf from there, in about 400 A.D. to Easter Island and Tahiti. A century or two later, other groups sailed from the Marquesas north to Hawai`i and south to New Zealand (Aotearoa).

Before the settlement of Tonga there were no Polynesians. There were black people in Fiji and Melanesia, and small brown peole in Indonesia. Somewhere in this part of the world were the ancestors of the people who later became Polynesians.

This knowledge comes from the study of archeology, ethnology and linguistics.

Language provides a ready clue to history, since it changes more slowly than much of the culture. The five words listed below demonstrate that the Hawaiian language has many relatives, and that the remote ancestors of the Hawaiians lived far to the West:
























These words illustrate three of the consonant shifts that prove genetic relationship:

Hawaiian k corresponds to t elswhere

Hawaiian glottal stop (`) corresponds to k elsewhere

Hawaiian h corresponds to j in Tongan and to b in Malay

Hundreds of other Hawaiian words have been traced back to the Indonesian area or elsewhere in Polynesia.

The first scholar to write about Hawaiian grammar was Albert von Chamisso, a German naturalist who spent 29 days in Hawai`i in 1816 and 1817, four years before the arrival of the New England missionaries from America. He wrote that Tongan was a simple and childish language, and he considered Hawaiian to be even more childish than Tongan, having too few sounds and almost no tenses.

In 1838 Chamisso made a c omplete about-face and wrote a detailed Hawaiian grammar, which was not based on the structure of Greek or Latin. He even intimated that the lack of inflections in Hawaiian was not a fault.

In 1838 the Reverend Lorrin Andrews, a New England missionary to Hawai`i, published a Hawaiian grammar which was unfortunately based on a Latin model. He expanded the early grammar in 1864 but retained his Latin bias. Ten years later W. D. Alexander, a missionary's son, published a fifty-nine page Hawaiian grammar. This was the last book on the subject until Helene Newbrand's phonemic analysis of Hawaiian in 1951. The lack of missionary interest in the Hawaiian language was probably based on two factors. One was that, once the Bible had been translated into Hawaiian, the missionaries pursued other interests. The other was that the number of native Hawaiians was rapidly diminishing. In addition, the public schools taught no Hawaiian. As early as 1878 there was concern that the language might become extinct.

However, this apprehension seems at present to be premature. Hawaiian is the principal language spoken on the island of Ni`ihau, and classes in the language are currently flourishing at the Kamehameha Schools and at many public schools, where they are taught by kupuna (elders), as well as at the University of Hawai`i in Manoa and Hilo. Today Hawaiian words like `ohana (family) and aloha `aina (love of the land) are returning to common recognition among Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike, and the Hawaiians are coming to regard their language as a precious heritage.

Dr. Elbert is remembered as one of the greatest experts on the Hawaiian language, a lexicographer who, with Dr. Mary Kawena Puku`i, compiled the Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian Dictionary. This article was written some 20 years ago and was published in The Land of Aloha, a book by publisher Carlino Giampolo, who continues to share articles from that fine book with readers of Paradise News, which he publishes in Waikiki. It is reprinted with permission of the publisher

Editor's note: So much has changed since Dr. Elbert wrote this article, and those changes will be addressed in subsequent articles about the Hawaiian language.. -- K&C

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Aloha: So this page won't become to scholarly, too pedantic, we'll include some very useful things put together by na loea (experts) in the language, those who both use the language every day and who teach it. The following--handy phrases for telephone use--was put together by Aha Punana Leo.

`Olelo Kelepona

1 Hello!     Aloha!

2 Who is this?     `O wai keia?

3 This is Kimo     `O Kimo keia.

4 Who do you want to speak with?     `O wai kau mea e makemake ana e wala`au pu?

5 How may I direct your call?     Pehea wau e koku ai ia `oe?

6 I'll transfer your call.     E ho`ohui aku wau ia `oe.

7 One moment please.     Kali iki. / Alia.

8 May I speak with Kimo?     Hiki anei ke wala`au me Kimo?

9 Is Kimo there?    Aia `o Kimo ma laila?

10 He/she is not here.     `A`ole `o ia ma`anei.

11 He/she is not available at this time.     `A`ole `o ia ka`awale i keia manawa.

12 He/she is on another line.     Aia `o ia ma kekahi laina.

13 The line is busy.     Ua pa`a ka laina.

14 Would you like to hold?     E kali paha `oe ma ka laina?

15 May I leave a message?    Hiki ia`u ke waiho i mana`onana?

16 May I take a message?     E kaka;u anei wau i mana`onana?

17 I'll ask him/her to return your call.     E noi wau ia ia e kelepona ia`oe.

18 Please let him/her know I called.     E ha`i ia ia ua kelepona wau.

19. Have her call me at ______.    E kelepona mai `o ia ia`u ma kahelu ________.

20 What is your number?    He aha kou helu kelepona?

21 I'll call again.     E kelepona hou wau.

22 I'm sorry you have the wrong number     E kala mai, ua huhewa koukelepona `ana.

23 I'm sorry to bother you.     E kala mai i keia ho`oluhi `ana.

24 It's no trouble.     `A`ole pilikia.

25 Thank you for calling.      Mahalo i kou kelepona `ana mai.

26 Goodbye      A hui hou, aloha.

27 Hang up the phone.       E kau i ke kelepona i luna.

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