As the Hawaiian language appears throughout this oral history series, I offer the following overview to help you understand aspects of the language as you read and listen to the print and audio editions of this book...
When I first moved to Tucson, Arizona, I was often questioned about the pronunciation of Hawaiian words I sometimes used. I soon realized that for speakers of Spanish, pronouncing Hawaiian was easier than they realized. In short, the pronunciation of Hawaiian is very similar to Spanish...
with one major difference, the "H" is sounded!
The Hawaiian language was unwritten until 1826, when Christian missionaries transcribed the sounds of the language into a thirteen-letter alphabet. Hawaiian consonants are pronounced as in standard American English. They include H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and the `okina ( ` ). Often, the “W” is pronounced like an English “V.” As there is no “S” in the Hawaiian language, plurals are determined by the preceding article. Each vowel is sounded in Hawaiian; they are similar in pronunciation to those in Spanish, and other Latin-based European languages:
A = Ah, as in above
E = Eh, as in let
I = Ee, as in eel
O = Oh, as in open
U = Oo, as in soon
Diphthongs are expressed as common English sounds. The “au” transliteration is pronounced as “ow” in “How.” Diacritical marks indicate emphasis and syllable separation. A kahakō ( - ) placed over vowels, indicates a need to hold the vowel sound slightly longer, as seen in the “a” in the word “card.” The `okina, ( ` ) is both a consonant and a diacritical mark (glottal stop); it is employed to produce a break as in “oh-oh.”
Please note, that in accordance with standard practices, foreign words included in this work are subject to the grammatical rules of English.
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