Hawaiian Alphabet

What is Hawaii?

Hawaii is one of the most interesting states in the United States. It is the only state that is found outside the continent of North America, the only archipelago state, and the only one that is geographically considered to be located within the tropics. Hawaii is so named as it makes up nearly the entirety of the Hawaiian archipelago, which are 137 volcanic islands that are over 1500 miles and are part of the Polynesia region of the continent of Oceania. This is why Hawaiians share much of their culture with other Pacific Islander nations.

The name of Hawaii is often also called "Big Island" for those people who do not want to confuse the difference between the state with the archipelago itself. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are the largest protected area in the United States and the third largest in the world. Hawaii has been settled by many different chiefdoms since 1000 CE. The first documented non-Polynesian to arrive in Hawaii was explorer James Cook in 1778. Shortly afterward, a mixture of European and American explorers had taken Cook's recommendation to visit this newly discovered area - much to their detriment. The influx of foreigners brought new diseases, namely smallpox, and measles, which drastically reduced the Hawaiian population in 1890.

What is the Hawaiian Alphabet?

The Hawaiian alphabet was spoken throughout the region for many hundreds of years but was adopted by American missionaries in the early 1800s to print the bible in this language, used to Christianize the local natives and population. James Cook, after his famous expedition, wrote a report about the land that he had discovered. He had heard the natives pronounce the name and write the name "Owhyee" as a way to phonetically capture what the islanders were saying to him. In 1822, a writing system was developed which was similar to the one used in New Zealand Grammar to create sounds from the Hawaiian language. Of course, this worked well, as New Zealand was also a Polynesian culture and contained many similarities between the two.

The Modern Alphabet contains 13 letters, which are the five vowels that are commonly used in the Latin alphabet and the English language, with an additional 8 consonants. Because of this, the Hawaiian language is very easy to write - but is sometimes denoted by accents to explain the different noises and inclinations that Hawaiians place on their letters and words.

History of the Hawaiian Alphabet

In 1826 the developers of the Hawaiian alphabet had originally placed many different letters but voted to eliminate some of the redundant sounds within the language, to make it much easier to write and understand. This enabled the Hawaiian alphabet to match the notion that the language was to be used as a one-symbol-one-sound method, unlike many other languages. This optimizes word choices, where some inefficiencies can be seen in the language. For example, the "F" sound in English can also be used with a "PH", making it difficult to grasp for novice and intermediate students.