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Hawaiian language

Hawaiian is the ancestral language of the indigenous people of the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaiians, a Polynesian people. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the State of Hawaii. It is notable for having a small phoneme inventory (see Hawaiian alphabet, below), like many of its Polynesian cousins. Especially notable is the fact that it lacks the phoneme /t/, one of only a few languages to lack such a phoneme.

Hawaiian is a member of the Austronesian language family, related to Samoan, Maori, Fijian, and other languages spoken throughout Polynesia, and more distantly to some Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean languages.

Hawaiian is a critically endangered language. Since 1900 the number of first language speakers of Hawaiian has fallen from 37,000 to 1,000, and half of these are in their seventies or eighties (see Ethnologue report below for citations). Interest in the language among the peoples of the Hawaiian Islands has increased in recent decades. The local NPR station broadcasts a 5-minute daily news summary in Hawaiian several times each day, and features a short segment titled "Hawaiian word of the day".

On most of the Hawaiian islands, Hawaiian has been displaced by English and is no longer widely used as the daily language of communication. The exception to this is Ni'ihau which, because it is a privately owned island, still uses Hawaiian in daily communications.

Hawaiian Pidgin (also known as Hawaiian Creole) is a local form of English with borrowings from Hawaiian and Japanese.

See also: Languages in the United States

Hawaiian alphabet

The Hawaiian alphabet, called ka pī'āpā Hawai'i in Hawaiian, is a variety of the Roman alphabet created in the 19th century and used to write the Hawaiian language. Until U.S. Missionaries to Hawai'i created a written form, the language was only spoken. It consists of 12 letters and a symbol, making it one of the shortest alphabets in the world (Rotokas alphabet has one letter fewer; the Pirahã language, two fewer). Its inventory consists of the consonants /p/, /k/, /`/ or /'/ (glottal stop or ‘okina, sometimes written as an opening single quote ), /m/, /n/, /w/ (sometimes rendered as [v]), /l/, /h/ and the vowels /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/. The macron, called a kahakō in Hawaiian, used with vowels, both extends a vowel sound and indicates a stressed syllable. It does NOT change the vowel sound (as from short to long)

For examples of use of the 'okina consider the word "Hawaii," in its proper form appearing as Hawai'i, or Oahu, which is O'ahu. We see from these Hawaiian spellings, that the words are actually pronounced: 'hah-VEYE ee' and 'Oh AH-hoo', with a glottal stop before 'ee' in Hawai'i and before 'AH-hoo' in O'ahu.

There are 162 possible syllables in Hawaiian, the fewest of any language.

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