Concerning the Hawaiian Language

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

By Kaikaʻoā

Aloha, Editor of the knowledge-filled Ka Wai Ola. Would you be so kind as to allow my bit of black ink a spare section of your vast white body, upon which a beautiful picture shall be painted of the most beloved thing of our ancestors who have since faded into the night, that being the mother tongue.

A story was printed in Ka Nupepa Kuokoa on Nov. 29, 1873. It was signed by J. N*****. I am speculating, as it matches the syllables to spell out this renowned name, that J. Nāwahī is the one who wrote this article. He showed four different categories of languages being spoken during that time; they are as follows:

  1. Truly pure Hawaiian language
  2. Mixed Hawaiian language
  3. Copycat Hawaiian language
  4. Altered Hawaiian language

Here are explanations for the languages that he mentioned: First: “The languages that come from our direct ancestors, that is the truly pure Hawaiian language.” Second: Mixed Hawaiian language, “This language is of Hawaiʻi’s own and of foreigners.” Third: Copycat Hawaiian language, “Which is the language spoken by people who do not know the Hawaiian language,” which includes the broken language spoken by some people from foreign lands. The last is the altered Hawaiian language, “It is the language, where letters are dropped, or, where words that have no meaning are appended, so that it is concealed, or, for the purpose of amusing those who are conversing.”

It is fascinating how he was able to clearly see the problems that the Hawaiian language faced during that time, along with showing ways to remedy and perhaps escape this entanglement that plagued our mother tongue.

This is not, however, the way we are being entangled today; it is perhaps the embarrassed Hawaiian language. To my friends who love the language, we should let out our proud voices, so that it echoes from one valley to the next throughout our islands and is heard by the children of the land. That is the only way that we can reach the pinnacle of the mountain that stands as a bulwark before us.

That mountain, of course, is the first language category mentioned by the honorable one.

The knowledge that has been shared herein comes from Awaiaulu.org, and it is they who made a transcription of this story along with a translation.