Hawai'i Coral Reef Network

Use of the Hawaiian Language

The ancient Hawaiians were great natural historians and stewards of their marine resources. Accordingly, many of the names, descriptions and terms used in Hawai'i are based on the Hawaiian language. This site endeavors to be accurate in its use of the Hawaiian language. Therefore, a short explanation of the Hawaiian language is in order to clarify spelling, grammar and pronunciation of Hawaiian words. This primer was prepared by Joylynn Oliveira a former Marine Science student at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo.

Also see: Using sound on this website

Ka Pp Hawaii

(The Hawaiian Alphabet)

There are thirteen alphabets in the Hawaiian language. They are:

A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W, ‘

Ka p‘p Hawai‘i is not pronounced the same way as the English alphabet. Every letter has only one sound. For example, the letter a in the Hawaiian language has the sound as the letter a in the word "was". The following is the way Hawaiian letters should be pronounced.

(was), ‘ (bet), (me), (go), (moon), H (help), K (ketchup),

L (locker), M (moo), N (new), P (people), W (vet), ‘okina

The ‘okina or glottal stop is only found between two vowels. A break in speech is created between the sounds of the two vowels. The pronunciation of the ‘okina is similar to saying "oh-oh". The ‘okina is written as a backwards apostrophe.

*Try saying the following words:

wa‘a ali`i `i`iwi po`opa‘a wav.gif (916 bytes)

The kahak or macron is not found in ka p‘p but is often used in the Hawaiian language. The kahak is always found above a vowel. It stresses or elongates a vowel sound from one beat to two beats. The kahak is written as a line above a vowel.

*Try saying the following words:

kpono ‘lio pkaukau pol wav.gif (916 bytes)

See Kualono -- website of the Hawaiian Language, for more information and Hawaiian fonts.


Last update: 1/25/2005