Talk:Hawaiian alphabet

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 Definition The form of writing used in the Hawaiian Language [d] [e]
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Two questions

Why a redirect from "Hawaiian alpabet"? If this is not simply an incorrect spelling than this should be mentioned somewhere in the article.
I assume that the writing system was not "developed on January 7, 1822" but rather before that date and published on it?
Peter Schmitt 09:16, 18 June 2009 (UTC)

I don't remember making a redirect from alpabet, but I do remember making one for Alphabet, with an uppercase A... I'll take a look, and see whats up with that...
I'm not 100% on the developed on date, but I think it refers to the actual date it was developed. I'd rather not expand on that until I can find more sources to clarify.Drew R. Smith 09:22, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
Sorry -- it was Hawaiian Alpabet Peter Schmitt 09:34, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
That is very strange. I could have sworn I'd put it on the Alphabet, not Alpabet... I guess I'll speedydelete it...Drew R. Smith 09:37, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
I've deleted Alpabet and moved the redirect to Alphabet. (But actually, I don't think we normally redir from uppercase to lowercase for ordinary words... any reason to do so here?) Caesar Schinas 09:39, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
As far as I know, alphabet is not normally capitalised. But, (and I've done this many times myself) people will capitalise it anyway when they are trying to search for articles regarding a specific alphabet.Drew R. Smith 09:45, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
But in the search, capitalisation doesn't matter. That's why we only normally redirect for different spellings, not different capitalisations. Caesar Schinas 10:03, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
Good to know! Peter Schmitt 10:41, 18 June 2009 (UTC)

Origins and Classification

I think the opening line of the article should be changed, mostly because we do know about the historical origins of Hawai'ian as a spoken language. It is a member of the Austronesian family, and we can trace many aspects of its development through the comparative method.
Also, I feel uncomfortable with categorizing the Hawai'ian alphabet as a subset of the English alphabet. Dustin Bowers 17:38, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Seconded on both counts. John Stephenson 08:13, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
It is a subset of the english alphabet. It was created using symbols taken drectly from the english alphabet in order to make it easier for the missionaries to more easily translate it. If you look you'll find no characters that aren't present in the english alphabet.
As a spoken language, with no written language until recently, we can't know for sure when the language broke off from whatever language it came from. As far as I know, we don't even definitively know which language it came from. Sure there are many theories out there, the most prominent of which is that it came from Tahitian. But the article isn't about the Language, its about the alphabet, and so shouldn't include much info about the language itself.When I finally get around to writing Hawaiian language, I will include in full detail all the different theories.Drew R. Smith 08:14, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
Changed to relatively unkown. Drew R. Smith 08:18, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
I understand that we can say that the symbols are the ones the creators learned for their own language(s), but it is confusing and misleading to call it a "subset" of the English alphabet. For example, though the letters themselves are common to English, Hawaiian and many other languages, the grapheme-phoneme (letter-sound) correspondances are not. As a "subset", that would imply that the orthography functions like English too. But the two languages are completely different. John Stephenson 08:59, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
As I understand it, a subset is simply an alphabet derived from the original. I'm not as well educated in Linguistics as you are, so if I'm wrong on that basic assumption please correct me. Once we clear up the defenition of a "subset" then we can determine if the Hawaiian alphabet is a subset of the english alphabet.Drew R. Smith 09:38, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

I don't see "subset" anywhere in the article. The infobox states that the Enlish alphabet is the parent alphabet. If this is what the debae is about, I don't see the problem. The hawaiian alphabet was taken from the English alphabet.Drew R. Smith 09:42, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

But it implies that written Hawaiian is a form of the English alphabet. It would be more accurate to say that the letters came from the Roman alphabet, with different letter-sound correspondences. John Stephenson 09:48, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
But they didn't come directly from the Roman alphabet. The came from the Roman alphabet through the English alphabet. There are no roman characters used in the hawaiian alphabet that werent first used by the English alphabet. The missionaries adapted the english alphabet, specifically choosing not to use the roman alphabet, for simplicity of use.Drew R. Smith 10:16, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
Also, by 'Roman alphabet' linguists mean one kind of alphabetic script which uses different rules for every language it's used for, not 'the alphabet used by the Romans to write Latin'. John Stephenson 03:33, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
Keep in mind that even though the Wade-Giles system was developed by English speakers using characters used by English, nobody calls Wade-Giles an anglicization of Chinese, but a romanization. The Hawaiian alphabet isn't even using typically English modifications of the roman script, like the "th" digraph (mostly because it can't..., no dental fricative there).Dustin Bowers 19:42, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
Also, the addition of vowels with macrons is something we can say attests an "extra-English influence". The character inventory is not strictly English.Dustin Bowers 19:54, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
English does use vowels with macrons, just not as seperate letters, and usually only in words that were taken from other languages. Does the roman alphabet use macrons as seperate letters from the un-macroned version?Drew R. Smith 07:21, 21 June 2009 (UTC)
According to wikipedia, the graeco-romans used them as diacritics (as far as I can tell). I am having trouble seeing where this is leading. I think we are in agreement that it bears only trivial resemblance to the English alphabet, and now you are making the case that it also bears only trivial resemblance to the roman alphabet. Are we going to say that it is unclassifiable? Probably not. Are we going to say that it is undecidable on factual grounds? I think we should. From that point, we should let convention decide and align ourselves with the standard nomenclature (latin/roman script as the parent). As an aside, I wonder about the euro/anglo-centric connotations of the current naming options.Dustin Bowers 17:59, 21 June 2009 (UTC)

As a non-linguist I want to ask: Does "alphabet" mean the set of characters (glyphs) used? If so, then it obviously is derived from the English (or Latin or Roman) alphabet as a subset plus diacritics. If, however, "alphabet" stands for the phonems, then the origin of the language is important. Peter Schmitt 00:28, 21 June 2009 (UTC)

'Alphabet' means a particular kind of writing system, roughly speaking one that writes 'phonemes', represented by individual letters or groups of letters. It contrasts with other systems such as a 'syllabary' (writes syllables) or a logographic script (writes words). English and Hawaiian use the same script (the shapes of the symbols), the same writing system (alphabetic) but different orthography (the rules of spelling, diacritics, punctuation, sound-letter correspondances, etc.). A good source for this is Cook & Bassetti (2005: 3). John Stephenson 03:27, 21 June 2009 (UTC)


In the article the only time the hawaiian alphabet is listed as a subset is in the infobox. John Stephenson said

"As a "subset", that would imply that the orthography functions like English too. But the two languages are completely different. John Stephenson 08:59, 20 June 2009 (UTC)"

But if that is the criteria for determining whether or not an alhpabet is a subset, take a look up the chain of parent writing systems. At the very top is heiroglyphics, which is nothing like any of the more commonly known child languages. The orthography, phonology, and the overall use of heiroglyphics is way different from these child languages. Does that make the roman alphabet any less of an ancestor of heiroglyphics? If the defenition above is the one we are to go by, the entire lineage of languages needs to be redrawn.Drew R. Smith 07:28, 21 June 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps the subset terminology was ill-chosen. The point is that extensions of "the" alphabet to new languages are called roman/latin scripts, they are not designated by the orthography of the languages that the designer(s) speak. We should have strong motivations for bucking this trend, and frankly, I haven't seen them yet.Dustin Bowers 02:03, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

Basically what I want someone to tell me is what the rule is for determining the parent writing system. By every defenition I've seen on this talk page, english should be the parent system. Just because Hawaiian uses the same letters as roman, doesn't automatically make roman the parent writing system.

Again, How is the parent system determined?Drew R. Smith 02:13, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

There isn't really a "parent system" in a strictly linguistic sense: the Hawaiian alphabet works according to its own rules. Hawaiian and English share the same alphabetic script, the Roman alphabet, but you cannot derive Hawaiian sound-letter correspondences, spelling conventions, etc. from English. The phrase 'English alphabet' really means the Roman script (letter symbols), the principle of alphabetic (phonemic) representation, and English orthographic rules. The creators of the Hawaiian alphabet just took the script (the actual symbols) and the principle of letters standing for phonemes, and devised Hawaiian orthographic rules. So there's nothing directly 'English' about Hawaiian writing at all. If the creators had been French, they could well have come up with a very similar or identical alphabet to the Hawaiian one used today, but you would now be saying that the French alphabet is the "parent system". John Stephenson 03:33, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
Ok, thanks for clearing that up. I'll go change it now...Hmm. it seems collaboration actually exists somewhere in the world. After WP, I had kinda assumed that the best you could hope for is that the poeple who disagree with you be civil. CZ has a bright future ahead of it. If I had had a similar argument at WP the other person would have never taken the time to explain why I was wrong, and simply insist that I was wrong. Thank you John for proving that there really is a collaborative spirit in alive in the internet.Drew R. Smith 03:57, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

Sound-Letter Correspondences

For anyone feeling enthusiastic, it would be a good call to describe what the letters correspond to phonetically. Dustin Bowers 19:44, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

What exactly do you mean?Drew R. Smith 04:02, 21 June 2009 (UTC)
I mean that we should describe what sounds of the spoken language are represented by the letters. Does "e" represent a mid-high or a mid-low unrounded front vowel? Does "w" represent a labio-velar glide or a labio-dental approximant?Dustin Bowers 07:07, 21 June 2009 (UTC)
Your proffesional terms are confusing the hell out of me. Anyway, adding a list of the sounds would be nice, but it would take up a lot of space. Take for instance "W". It can be pronounced as a "double yoo"(please excuse the un-proffesional pronunciations), but in most cases it is pronounced as a "V" with varying pronunciations. When creating the Hawaiian language, the makers were going for one symbol-one sound, and instead got one symbol-(at least) three sounds. And that doesn't even begin to cover all the macrons, dipthongs, and `okina that tottally change the pronunciation. I also wonder if a pronunciation guide would be better suited to an article on the language instead of the alphabet?Drew R. Smith 07:15, 21 June 2009 (UTC)
That is exactly my point. An article on the alphabet should describe the sounds that the letters represent. I can even start us off: I bet that an 'okina represents a glottal stop... the "catch" that happens between syllables in "uh-oh". I have heard that "e" represents the phoneme /ɛ/ (mid-low unrounded front vowel, the sound that begins the word "every" in my dialect of English). Since sounds are not discrete, we should expect some variation, as you pointed out for the symbol "w". But the range is certainly controlled and has a prototypical center. This article should show what it is. We aren't in danger of taking too much space, the article is pretty short right now. And yes, a lot of this information would also appear in an article on the Hawaiian language. It would be good to get a head start on that here.Dustin Bowers 01:49, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
Ok, how can I include the pronunciations without turning the article into a "grab bag of facts", or making the article into a giant list?Drew R. Smith 02:15, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
Its easy, I'll do it. If someone could tell me how to make a table/column layout... :)Dustin Bowers 04:58, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

Hang on, I'm gonna check and see if CZ has a help page for tables. They are kinda complex...Drew R. Smith 06:42, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

I can do a table. Where, and how many across and down? Ro Thorpe 22:43, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

Actually I found a way to include them that I'm going to try. Once I've got it up, you pro's can edit it as you see fit.Drew R. Smith 09:02, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

And some examples of words written in this alphabet would also be nice (perhaps geographical names?). Peter Schmitt 00:23, 21 June 2009 (UTC)
Well, the names of the Islands are already written in Hawai`ian. Hawai`i (the big island), Maui (The Valley Isle), Kaho`olawe (The Target Isle), Lāna`i (The Pineapple Isle), Moloka`i (The Friendly Isle), O`ahu (The Gathering Place, and home of the capital Honolulu), Kaua`i (The Garden Isle), and Ni`ihau (The Forbidden Isle). Of course if you wanted some words that few people use, you could have humuhumunukunukuāpua`a which is the state fish (Reef Triggerfish). There is also āloha, which basicaly means whatever you want it to, though the first defenition you'll find is hello, followed by goodbye, followed by love, followed by sadness. The language is very complicated, and the "one syllable- one sound" that the missionaries where trying for kind of made it more complicated. A lot of understanding the spoken language is in the ability to read body language (aloha said with a frown generally means goodbye) and being able to catch the spoken difference between kou (you) and ko`u (me).Drew R. Smith 03:53, 21 June 2009 (UTC)


Hows it look now? I personally think the numbers and glides should be in the language article, not the alphabet article, but I'd rather have too much than not enough, so I put them in.Drew R. Smith 11:06, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

Some editorial suggestions

I don't claim to be an expert in the subject matter, but I think the article could be improved a little by making some changes along the following lines:

Change the introductory paragraph as follows: Drop the first sentence entirely. This article is primarily about the alphabet.

Change the next couple of sentences to read something like:

The Hawaiian alphabet, ka pī‘āpā Hawai‘ i, was originally designed in the early 1800s by American missionaries who wanted to print a Hawaiian bible. As the Hawaiian language had been purely an oral language up to that time, the missionaries chose to adapt the Roman alphabet to fit their needs.

Languages are not "oral traditions" in the way we normally think of "oral traditions" - the term distracts. The missionaries were not compelled to use the Roman alphabet, they could have used another or invented their own, thus "chose".

Unless there's a really good reason, you should probably use ' for 'okina, instead of `. The backtick symbol breaks up the text in a really ugly way.

I think pronunciations should use the International Phonetic Alphabet; the image in the article already has the IPA pronunciations included. However, the pronunciations using General American seem pretty good, so changing to IPA should be done all at once, not piecemeal.

In publishing the Hawaiian bible, they used ko` u ('my') from kou ('your'). This sentence is unclear.

I'm not sure why there is a table of numbers with their names and pronunciations. It's probably better saved for a Hawaiian language article.

Anthony Argyriou 21:07, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

I agree with all of Anthony's suggestions. Just one thing: I'd remove the okina from 'okina entirely (as I was forced to do when creating the stub): it is not an apostrophe, not is it an English character; indeed it serves no purpose as we don't normally (unless we are Hawaiians perhaps) pronounce the glottal stop there. Ro Thorpe 22:07, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
Generally I agree with your points. The first sentence doesn't really have much to do with the alphabet itself, but having it does help the lede flow better.
I used "oral tradition" because hawai`ians take pride in the term. Even in our schools today teachers describe it as an "oral tradition" instead of simply "a language without an alphabet". I'm not sure what the real diference is, but that is the way the hawai`ians describe it, and how history describes it, so that is what I used.
I use the backtick because the `okina is not an apostrophe, and the distinction needs to be made. My computer has a key for the real `okina, and if you look through the original history you will either see a mini 6 with the hole filled in, or a big ugly box. Those big ugly boxes are why I used the backtick instead. It's the closest to the real thing that most browsers can support.
I personally don't like the IPA pronunciations because they are too difficult for the layman to understand. I see /ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ/ and I'm completely lost. But when I see ˈiŋ-glish I know exactly how to say the word.
I changed that weid sentence. I don't know what happened there. Probably lost my train of thought.
I will remove the numbers table.
I am not against changing any of the things we're discussing, I just thought I should explain my reasons first.Drew R. Smith 03:59, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Working on Approval


This will have to have good backup references with in text citations. Layout looks good.Thomas Simmons 23:26, 30 June 2009 (UTC)

I recall that Citizendium isn't nearly so insistent on inline citations, so long as there are good references to support the facts of the article. References are important, but we don't need articles to look like controversial Wikipedia articles, where every sentence has a citation. Anthony Argyriou 04:04, 1 July 2009 (UTC)
Everything is supported by references in the external links section.Drew R. Smith 00:33, 2 July 2009 (UTC)