Hawaiian is an Austronesian language spoken by about 8,000 people
on the Hawaiian islands. Hawaiian first appeared in writing in the
early 19th century in a version of the Latin alphabet developed by
missionaries, who started to visit the Hawaiian islands from 1820 onwards.
Literacy among the Hawaiian people was widespread during the 19th
century when Hawai'i was an independent kingdom. Dozens of Hawaiian
language newspapers were published, together with Hawaiian translations
of religious works and novels and Hawaiian transcriptions of
After Hawaii was annexed by the USA in 1899, the Hawaiian
language was banned from schools and went into rapid decline. By
the 1980s, there was only about 2,000 Hawaiian speakers, most of
whom were elderly.
In 1978 Hawaiian was made an official language of Hawaii,
along with English, and since then there has been a revival of interest
in the language. There are now several schools where most subjects
are taught through the medium of Hawaiian and Hawaiian classes are
popular at all levels of education.
Vowels can be long or short. Long vowels are usually written with a macron (ā,
ē, ī, ō, ū), but if no macron is available, a circumflex
(â, ê, î, ô, û) can be used instead.
The letter combination kiu is pronounced [ƫiu]
The letter W is pronounced [w] or [v] after a, [v] after i or e and [w]
after o or u.
The Hawaiian language is quite unusual because when the original Polynesians
came in their canoes, most of their consonants were washed overboard in a
storm, and they arrived here with almost nothing but vowels. All the
streets have names like Kal'ia'iou'amaa'aaa'eiou, and many street signs
spontaneously generate new syllables during the night. Dave Barry
Sample text in Hawaiian
Hānau kū'oko'a 'ia nā kānaka apau loa, a ua kau like
ka hanohano a me nā pono kīvila ma luna o kākou pākahi.
Ua ku'u mai ka no'ono'o pono a me ka 'ike pono ma luna o kākou, no
laila, e aloha kākou kekahi i kekahi.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)