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Hawaiian Creole English (第16回)

#16. Hawaiian Creole English

Jayna Tokie Tanaka

     Tourists in Hawaii are often surprised by the language they hear on their vacations. Until they perk up their ears and listen carefully, what they hear sounds like a foreign language. That does not seem unusual at first. After all, all the colors of the human rainbow are represented in the state. After a while, however, they probably come to realize that what they are hearing is a kind of English, not the same as they speak on the “continent” (that vast land called “the mainland” in Hawaii) or what they learned in English classrooms in their own countries. They will probably only hear this language ― people will not speak it to them ― because the people they actually communicate with will only speak “standard” American English in the stores, restaurants, and tours they use. Until recently, this language was almost completely oral. It is only in the last few decades that it has been written down, studied, and used in literature. The language of everyday life of many people who live in Hawaii today developed over the past 200 years of contact among the peoples of many cultures and has developed into a full-fledged creole language with its own grammar and pronunciation.

     After the first foreigners arrived in the Hawaiian islands in 1778, communication between the native Hawaiian people and the newcomers consisted of a mixture of many foreign languages and the Hawaiian language, which is related to the languages of people throughout Polynesia. The rudimentary expressions which make up this form of communication is called “pidgin” and has been observed in many places where native peoples come in contact with foreigners in all areas of the world. Hawaiian Pidgin continued to be the form of communication among the many foreigners in Hawaii until the beginning of the 20th century. During the middle of the 19th century, Europeans and Americans began to establish large plantations to grow crops suitable to the subtropical Hawaii including sugar cane and pineapples. These crops were labor intensive and required large numbers of workers. Most of the immigrants imported from many countries were men. They came from places as far away as China, Portugal, Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, and the Philippines.{i} As a result, Hawaiian Pidgin consisted of words and phrases from all of these languages along with many native Hawaiian expressions.

     Although the first foreign laborers had little intention of permanently residing in Hawaii, the years passed, and they began to raise families. Many Chinese men married native Hawaiian women, and there are now many Hawaiians who also claim Chinese ancestry with names like Wong and Ching. The Japanese laborers sent home to their native Japan for brides. Some of them were real “picture brides,” women who exchanged photographs with men in Hawaii through a matchmaker, as had been done in Japan, and decided to make the long journey to live in a foreign land. The Portuguese immigrants from the Madeira and Azores islands were also mainly male, and many of them married native Hawaiians.

     The children of these early immigrants began to come of age during the early 20th century. This was the beginning of the formation of a real creole language. The language that they used among their peers, in the playgrounds, in the towns, and in schools, was based on English, the language of the government of the Territory of Hawaii, which had been annexed by the United States in 1898. To this English base, they added all the languages that they heard around them. This language began to have grammar and punctuation rules as any language does. However, before serious study of the language had been done, it was mostly looked down on by speakers of standard American English as a “corrupt” or “substandard” form of English.           (To be continued)

     {i} Hargrove, Ermile, Kent Sakoda, and Jeff Siegal. “Hawai’i Creole.” Language Varieties. 12 June 2012. /
           Web. 20 June 2017.


Jayna Tokie Tanaka(ジェイナ・トキエ・タナカ)

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