While English is the official language in Hawaii, two others will be heard while you are here, Hawaiian and the ever-present Pidgin. This article will provide a simple introduction to both.
The Hawaiian language contains only 13 letters, – five vowels, seven consonants and the ‘okina, which is called a ‘glottal stop’ in English. The okina indicates a break in the sound when the word is spoken, like the break when you say “uh oh” in English. Simple, right?
Here is the Hawaiian alphabet,
A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W,’
Here are the four basic rules,
~ All words end in a vowel.
~ Every consonant is followed by at least one vowel.
~ Every syllable ends in a vowel.
~ Two consonants never appear next to each other.
The okina is only found between two vowels or at the beginning of a word.
The word Lanai (verandah, porch) with no okina would be pronounced ‘Lah-nigh’, with the okina, it is Lana’i (the island 10 miles south of us) and pronounced ‘Lah-nah-ee.’
‘Molokai’ written without the okina, it is pronounced ‘Moh-loh-kai.’
Written with the okina, it reads Moloka’i and is pronounced ‘Moh-loh-kah-ee.’
Either pronunciation is acceptable, but often a missing okina will change the meaning of a word.