Pidgin Hawaiian

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Not to be confused with Hawaiian 'Pidgin', a creole language.

Pidgin Hawaiian was a language spoken in Hawaii, which drew most of its vocabulary from the Hawaiian language and could have been influenced by other pidgins of the Pacific region. Emerging in the mid-nineteenth century, it was spoken mainly by immigrants to Hawaii, and died out in the early twentieth century. Like all pidgins, Pidgin Hawaiian was a fairly rudimentary language, used for immediate communicative purposes by people of diverse language backgrounds, but who were mainly from East and South-East Asia. As Hawaiian was the main language of the islands in the nineteenth century, most words came from this Polynesian language, though many others contributed to its formation. In the 1890s and afterwards, the increased spread of English favoured the use of an English-based pidgin instead, which, once nativized as the first language of children, developed into a creole which today is misleadingly called Hawaiian 'Pidgin'. This variety has also been influenced by Pidgin Hawaiian; for example in its use of the grammatical marker pau.

Henry kokoe pau[1] paina, wau[2] hele no[3] (Pidgin Hawaiian)[4]

'After Henry had eaten dinner, I went.'

Jesus pau teach all dis kine story. (Hawaiian Creole)[5]

'Jesus finished teaching all these kinds of stories.'


  1. Literally 'finish', but probably used here to indicate a complete action.
  2. 1st person singular marker.
  3. Marker indicating that hele is an intransitive verb.
  4. Siegel (2008: 82).
  5. Da Jesus Book (2000: 43), quoted in Siegel (2008: 81).

See also