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Hawaiian language

Hawaiian
ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi
Region Hawaiʻi, concentrated on Niʻihau and Hawaiʻi
Ethnicity Native Hawaiians
Native speakers
2,000 (1997) 24,000+ (2006–2008)
Latin (Hawaiian alphabet)
Hawaiian Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Hawaii
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3
Glottolog hawa1245
Linguasphere 39-CAQ-e
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Hawaiian language (Hawaiian: ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, pronounced [ʔoːˈlɛlo həˈvɐjʔi]) is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaiʻi, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii. King Kamehameha III established the first Hawaiian-language constitution in 1839 and 1840.

For various reasons, including territorial legislation establishing English as the official language in schools, the number of native speakers of Hawaiian gradually decreased during the period from the 1830s to the 1950s. Hawaiian was essentially displaced by English on six of seven inhabited islands. In 2001, native speakers of Hawaiian amounted to under 0.1% of the statewide population. Linguists were unsure that Hawaiian and other endangered languages would survive.

Nevertheless, from around 1949 to the present day, there has been a gradual increase in attention to and promotion of the language. Public Hawaiian-language immersion preschools called Pūnana Leo were started in 1984; other immersion schools followed soon after that. The first students to start in immersion preschool have now graduated from college and many are fluent Hawaiian speakers. The federal government has acknowledged this development. For example, the Hawaiian National Park Language Correction Act of 2000 changed the names of several national parks in Hawaiʻi, observing the Hawaiian spelling.

A pidgin or creole language spoken in Hawaiʻi is Hawaiian Pidgin (or Hawaii Creole English, HCE). It should not be mistaken for the Hawaiian language nor for a dialect of English.


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