‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i

Language Log is a quite entertaining and informative collaborative blog on languages.

It includes a number of of great language blog links that will keep me busy over the Christmas holiday. There was an interesting post that discussed spelling mistakes in a recent article about our college. I’m curious regarding their use of the word “Hawai’ian” for Hawaiian, and emailed our thinking on the the issue. First, Hawaiian words cannot end in consonants, so it’s not a Hawaiian word. As far as I know the glottal is not written in English, so I don’t believe it is an accurate spelling for an English word, either. I don’t know any Hawaiian language instructor who pronounces or spells it “Hawai’ian,” though I’ve been told a UH-Mānoa linguistics professor does. I emailed the keeper of the blog and am awaiting a reply.

It does bring up another issue we dicuss among ourselves – what to consider Hawaiian words that are pluralized with the English pluralizing phoneme “s” (leis, kumus, keikis, etc.). Hawaiian nouns (though I hate to use that word) are pluralized by the use of the determiner in place of ka or ke (the), or with the use of mau between other determiners and the noun. We’ve heard TV announces say “the nā kumu hula” in broadcasts of hula competition, which sounds very bizarre if you speak the language.

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