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Hawaiian Creole English (Part 2)(第17回)

#17. Hawaiian Creole English (Part 2)

Jayna Tokie Tanaka

     Several examples of distinctive grammatical features of Hawaiian Creole English will show its differences from Standard American English. One of these is the elimination of the verb “be” in sentences which express inherency. Typical sentences include:
         Hawaiian Creole                         Standard English Spelling                         Standard English
     1. Mai sista skini.                            My sister skinny.                                        My sister is skinny.    (Sakoda and Siegel, 77)
     2. Da baby cute.                              The baby cute.                                           The baby is cute.    (Hargrove
The first column shows an approximation of how the sentence is spoken. The second column shows where the “be” verb is missing, and the third shows the standard English sentence. Verb tense, especially the past and future, have their own special ways of expression. The word “went” or “wen” is inserted before the verb in a sentence to show that an action occurred in the past.
        Hawaiian Creole                           Standard English Spelling                             Standard English
     1. Da baby wen cry.                         The baby went cry.                                        The baby cried.    (Thompson)
     2. I wen si om.                                  I went see him.                                              I saw him.    (Sakoda and Siegel, 40)
To express the future tense, a form of “going” as in “am going to” is used.
        Hawaiian Creole                            Standard English Spelling                             Standard English
     1. Ai gon bai wan pikap.                  I going buy one pickup.                                  I am going to buy a pickup (truck).
                                                                                                                                                               (Sakoda and Siegel, 39)
     2. Yu gon trn in yaw pepa leit?       You going turn in your paper late?                Are you going to turn in your paper late?

     Pronunciation changes make spoken Hawaiian Creole especially difficult for speakers (or learners) of standard pronunciations to understand conversations among local Hawaiian residents. For example, the “th” in English becomes a “d” sound, so people say da, dat, and bradda instead of the, that, and brother. This pronunciation of “th” as “d” is so common that many residents suggested naming the city bus system “DaBus” rather than “TheBus,” which became its official name. Another of the pronunciation changes is the use of “a” instead of “er,” so there are sistas, wedda, and dinna instead of sisters, weather, and dinner. The “r” is also often lost in the pronunciation of words like parking, deer, and welfare. These become paking, dia, and welfea (Hargrove, This means that many words borrowed from languages other than English are also pronounced differently from their antecedents. One example is the Japanese word karai, which means the hot flavor of chili peppers. This word becomes kadai, and the martial art karate becomes kadate (Sakoda and Siegel, 21). These changes in pronunciation, along with many others, make using Hawaiian Creole a perfect way to keep secrets from newcomers to Hawaii.

     The use of Hawaiian Creole by those who live in Hawaii and other states of the U.S. with large populations of people from Hawaii is called a continuum (Simons and Fennig). The range starts with native speakers who speak only Hawaiian Creole to those who can understand the language but cannot speak it properly. Most speakers fall somewhere in between, and some of these speakers cannot distinguish between Hawaiian Creole and standard English. An instructor of English composition in a Colorado university told me that she had many problems with students from Hawaii because they wrote papers as if they were speaking. In other words, their grammar followed Hawaiian Creole norms in many cases, and the grammar had to be corrected before proceeding to other aspects of academic writing. The problem with not being able to speak and write an acceptable form of standard American English is that most jobs in Hawaii are in the service industry and require employees to interact with many kinds of customers. These employees must be able to smoothly transition from Hawaiian Creole to standard English as the situation changes.

     Since Hawaiian Creole is understood in varying degrees by the people of Hawaii, it has been used in song lyrics and by comedians, and it has recently been gaining attention as more nationally, and internationally, recognized writers have chosen to use it in their novels. Although the official name of the language is Hawaiian Creole, people in Hawaii usually call it Hawaiian Pidgin. Samples of people speaking and singing in this language are available in the hundreds on YouTube. A good sample of these videos has been collected by Reed College in Oregon for its Sociological Artifacts website. I remember the song “Mr. Sun Cho Lee” because of its use of funny ethnic stereotypes, which I did not think of as offensive when I first heard them. (I still do not think them offensive. It seems to me that the lyrics reflect what most people feel. There is no discrimination; all are slighted.) Serious writing in Hawaiian Creole, however, was another matter, and it took quite a while for that to happen. Two of the most enjoyable novels I have read were written by Hawaiian-born Lois-Ann Yamanaka. Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers (1996) and Heads by Harry (1998) are set in Hilo on the island of Hawaii, and the people who appear in them speak like the people I grew up with. They offer a glimpse of life in rural Hawaii, but they may also be impenetrable for those without some idea of how the language works. Although some may disparage the use of “substandard” English in these novels, I believe it is the best way to reveal a different way of understanding reality.

     People in Hawaii have lived with Hawaiian Creole and standard English for most of their written history. For most of this history, there has also been controversy over whether children should only be taught standard English in schools. It seems to me, however, that knowing two languages is always better than knowing only one. Nimbly moving around the Hawaiian Creole continuum and between it and standard English makes for a vastly richer life.


Works Cited
     Hargrove, Ermile, Kent Sakoda, and Jeff Siegal. “Hawai’i Creole.” Language Varieties. 12 June 2012. Web. 20 June 2017.
     Reed Institute and Kara Becker. “Hawaiian Pidgin.” Sociolinguistic Artifacts. 2012. Web. 9 Jan. 2018.
     Sakoda, Kent, and Jeff Siegel. Pidgin Grammar, An Introduction to the Creole Language of Hawai’i. Honolulu: Bess Press,
              2003. Print.
     Simons, Gary F., and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). “Hawai’i Pidgin.” Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twentieth edition.
              SIL International. 2017. Web. 08 Jan. 2018.
     Thompson, Irene, “Hawaiian Creole.” About World Languages. 9 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Dec. 2017.


Jayna Tokie Tanaka(ジェイナ・トキエ・タナカ)

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