Hawaii Hawaii

The Hawaiian Alphabet was technically “created” in 1822. It was developed and printed by a man named Edward Loomis. He apparently modeled it after one similar to the new New Zealand Grammar.

hawaiian alphabet


The Hawaiian Alphabet

There are only 13 true letters.

  • 5 Vowels: A, E, I, O, and U.
  • 8 Consonants: H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and ʻokina.

I’m sure you’re wondering what an ” ʻokina ” is. Here is the definition: “The ʻokina, also called by several other names. This is a unicameral consonant letter used within the Latin script to mark the phonemic glottal stop. This is used in many Polynesian languages.” This means that when two words are spelled the same and have different meanings the ʻokina is used to differentiate between the two.

In addition the alphabet also has something called diphthongs. These are literally two letters as one sound. Here is a list of those:

aii in ridekai = sea water
aeI or eyeMaeʻole = never-fading
aoow in howwith lower offglideMaoli = trueKaona = hidden meaning
auou in loud or outAu = I, I am
eiei in eightLei = garland
eueh-(y)ooʻEleu = lively
iuee-(y)oosimilar to ew in fewWēkiu = topmost
oeoh-(w)ehʻOe = you
oioi in voicePoi = a Hawaiian staple
ouow in bowlKou = your
uioo-(w)ee in gooeyHui = together, team, chorus

Alphabet Origins

The original alphabet included five vowels and twelve consonants: A, B, D, E, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, R, T, U, V, and W and seven diphthongs: AE, AI, AO, AU, EI, EU, OU. In addition, the letters F, G, S, Y, and Z were used to spell foreign words.

In 1826, the original developers voted to eliminate some of the letters which represented completely interchangeable letters. This enabled the Hawaiian alphabet to come close to the so-called ideal state of one-symbol-one-sound. Thereby optimizing the ease with which people could teach and learn the reading and writing of Hawaiian.

Firstly, the interchangeable B/P, B was dropped, P was kept.
Secondly, the interchangeable L/R/D, L was kept, R and D were dropped.
Thirdly, the interchangeable K/T, K was kept, T was dropped.
And finally, the interchangeable V/W, V was dropped, W was kept.

If you would like to learn more about the Hawaiian language, click here!

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