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Hawaiian Alphabet

(See also "Hawaiian Culture" on Big Island, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, or Oahu)

The Hawaiian language was an oral tradition. The Hawaiian alphabet (piapa), was written by 19th century missionaries. The alphabet contains 12 letters: 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and 7 consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w). To simplify pronunciation, sound consonants as in English and break up words so they are easy to say e.g., Waianapanapa sounds like Wai-a-napa-napa.

Pronounce vowels as follows:

  • a - a in above; e - e in bet; i - ee in see; o - o in sole; u - oo in moon.

  • pronounce stressed vowels marked by a macron (-) like unstressed vowels except for a - a in far and e - ay in pay. e.g. Mãnoa is pronounced Mah-noa. The word for macron in Hawaiian is kahakõ.

  • pronounce vowels marked by a glottal stop (`) quickly e.g., o`o sounds like oh-oh! in English. The word for glottal in Hawaiian is 'okina.

  • stress rising dipthongs (ae, ai, ao, au, oi, ou, eu, ei) on the first letter and end with a short e, i, o or u e.g., oi sounds like oy in boy, ending with a short "i".

Placement of macrons and glottals can change the meaning of Hawaiian words. However, current browser technology does not facilitate universal and uniform application and utilization of these diacritical marks by browser fonts and search engines. As a result, we have been unable to use them on this site.

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