Hawaiian/About Hawaiian

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The Hawaiian language (Ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i) is a member of the Austronesian language family. This family is spread throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia and stretches from Madagascar to Rapa Nui. The languages in this family are closely related to each other.

The language takes its name from the Hawai'i archipelago. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the State of Hawaii (United States).

For various reasons, the number of native speakers of Hawaiian gradually decreased during the period from the 1830s to the 1950s. Hawaiian was essentially displaced by English on six of the seven inhabited islands. Nevertheless, from about 1949 to the present, there has been a gradual increase in attention to, and promotion of, the language. Public Hawaiian-language immersion pre-schools called Pūnana Leo were started in 1984; other immersion schools followed soon after. The first students to start in immersion pre-school have now graduated from college and many are fluent Hawaiian speakers.

As of 2000, native speakers of Hawaiian amount to under 0.1% of the statewide population. According to the recent U.S. Census, 27,160 speak the language at home.

Hawaiian grammar is relatively simple, and complex sentences can be created from combining simple rules. There are a couple of points to note, however, that make Hawaiian distinctively different in grammar from English:

  • The common word order is Verb Subject Object (e.g. Hele au i ka hale, Go-I-to-the-house).
  • Adjectives always follow nouns (e.g. ke kanaka pono, the-person-good).
  • All nouns (even abstract) take an article (e.g. ke Akua, ka po'e, the God, the people)