In ancient times, the culture and traditions of the people of Hawai`i were transmitted orally from generation to generation. American missionaries arrived in 1820 and soon formulated a written Hawaiian language based on the sounds they heard. Hawaiians quickly adopted written literacy following the introduction of printed Bibles, grammars and other textbooks. Hawaiian was the primary language of all islanders until the late 19th century. In 1893, the last reigning Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lili`uokalani, was overthrown by American forces. Soon thereafter, Hawaiian was banned as the language of instruction in all schools. That prohibition was finally officially lifted in 1986. Today, the State of Hawai`i has two official languages, Hawaiian and English, established by the State Constitution of 1978.
In its written form, the language uses an alphabet of 13 letters: five vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and eight consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w) including the `okina or glottal stop. The "sound" of the `okina is similar to the vocal break made when pronouncing "oh-oh." Omission of the `okina, as with the omission of any other letter, changes the meaning of the word. The kahako, or macron, is a diacritical mark employed primarily as an aid to proper pronunciation; it indicates a stressed and elongated vowel.Hawaiian Language at This Site
Because existing fonts display Hawaiian language diacritical marks inconsistently, we have omitted the use of the kahako in Hawaiian words in our site text. We retain the `okina and follow Pukui and Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary as our spelling guide.