The Hawaiian alphabet (in Hawaiian: ka pīʻāpā Hawaiʻi) is an alphabet used to write Hawaiian. It was adapted from the English alphabet in the early 19th century by American missionaries to print a bible in the Hawaiian language.
|Creator||American Protestant missionaries|
In 1778, British explorer James Cook made the first reported Europe voyage to Hawaiʻi. In his report, he wrote the name of the islands as "Owhyhee" or "Owhyee". In 1822, a writing system based on one similar to the new New Zealand Grammar was developed and printed by American Protestant missionary Elisha Loomis. The original alphabet included five vowels and seven consonants:
- A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W, 
and seven diphthongs:
- AE, AI, AO, AU, EI, EU, OU
In addition, the letters F, G, S, Y, and Z were used to spell foreign words.
In 1826, the developers voted to eliminate some of the letters which represented functionally redundant interchangeable letters, enabling the Hawaiian alphabet to approach the ideal state of one-symbol-one-sound, and thereby optimizing the ease with which people could teach and learn the reading and writing of Hawaiian.
- Interchangeable B/P. B was dropped, P was kept
- Interchangeable L/R/D. L was kept, R and D were dropped
- Interchangeable K/T/D. K was kept, T and D were dropped
- Interchangeable V/W. V was dropped, W was kept
Due to words with different meanings being spelled alike, use of the glottal stop became necessary. As early as 1823, the missionaries made limited use of the apostrophe to represent the glottal stop, but they did not make it a letter of the alphabet. In publishing the Hawaiian Bible, they used the ʻokina to distinguish koʻu ('my') from kou ('your'). It was not until 1864 that the ʻokina became a recognized letter of the Hawaiian alphabet.
As early as 1821, one of the missionaries, Hiram Bingham, was using macrons in making handwritten transcriptions of Hawaiian vowels. The macron, or kahakō, was used to differentiate between short and long vowels.
The current official Hawaiian alphabet consists of 12 letters: five vowels (A a, E e, I i, O o, U u) and seven consonants (H h, K k, L l, M m, N n, P p, W w, ʻ). Alphabetic order differs from the normal Latin order in that the vowels come first, then the consonants. The five vowels with macrons – Ā ā, Ē ē, Ī ī, Ō ō, Ū ū – are not treated as separate letters, but are alphabetized immediately after unaccented vowels. The ʻokina is ignored for purposes of alphabetization, but is included as a consonant.
The letter names were invented for Hawaiian specifically, since they do not follow traditional European letter names in most cases. The names of M, N, P, and possibly L were most likely derived from Greek, and that for W from the deleted letter V.
|K k||kē||/k ~ t/|
|L l||lā||/l ~ ɾ ~ ɹ/|
|W w||wē||/w ~ v/|
|ai||i in ride||kai = sea water|
|ae||I or eye||Maeʻole = never-fading|
|ao||ow in how
with lower offglide
|Maoli = true
Kaona = town
|au||ou in loud or out||Au = I, I am|
|ei||ei in eight||Lei = garland|
|eu||eh-(y)oo||ʻEleu = lively|
similar to ew in few
|Wēkiu = topmost|
|oe||oh-(w)eh||ʻOe = you|
|oi||oi in voice||Poi = a Hawaiian staple|
|ou||ow in bowl||Kou = your|
|ui||oo-(w)ee in gooey||Hui = together, team, chorus|
- Walch, David B. (1967). "The Historical Development of the Hawaiian Alphabet". Journal of the Polynesian Society. 76 (3): 353–366. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
- "Omniglot.com". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
- "Alternative-Hawaii.com". Alternative-Hawaii.com. Retrieved 2010-02-17.