About the Hawaiian Language

Hawaiian is a Polynesian language spoken on all of the inhabited islands of Hawai‘i with only minor dialectical differences between them.In the nineteenth century, Hawaiian became a written language. At the same time, it became the language of the Hawaiian government in public offices, the courts, the school system and the legislature. In addition, it was the most widely used language among the general public, which included foreigners and various local ethnic groups. However, with the subjugation of Hawai‘i under the rule of the United States in 1898, Hawaiian was supplanted and English became the official language for all government offices and transactions. By the turn of the century, a Hawai‘i Creole language had begun to develop. This hybrid was the result of two language dynamics occurring simultaneously: 1) the attempt suddenly of a public, heretofore accustomed to communicating in Hawaiian, to speak now in English, and 2) the Pidgin Hawaiian that was spoken by immigrants.

In recent times, however, much has transpired to rekindle the use of Hawaiian. In 1978, Hawaiian was re-established as an official language of the state of Hawai‘i. In 1987, government schools began using Hawaiian as the medium of instruction at selected sites. In 1990, the federal government of the United States adopted a policy to recognize the right of Hawai‘i to preserve, use, and support its indigenous language. Today, the number of Hawaiian speakers grows steadily in homes and in the schools. To date, Hawaiian is the most widely studied Native American language and it is the only Native American language that is used officially by a state government.