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Hawaiian Creole English

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Title: Hawaiian Creole English  
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Subject: Grammatical aspect, Pidgin, Relative clause, Native Hawaiians, Modal verb, Placeholder name, Lorenzo Lyons, Intonation (linguistics)
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Hawaiian Creole English

Hawaii Creole English
Native to US
Native speakers unknown (700,000 cited 1986)Template:Infobox language/ref
Language family
English Creole
  • Pacific
    • Hawaii Creole English
Language codes
ISO 639-3 hwc
Linguist List Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
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Linguasphere 52-ABB-dc

Hawaii Pidgin English, Hawaii Creole English, HCE, or simply Pidgin, is a creole language based in part on English used by many residents of Hawaii. Although English and Hawaiian are the co-official languages of the state of Hawaii,[1] Pidgin is used by many Hawaiian residents in everyday conversation and is often used in advertising targeted at Hawaiians. In the Hawaiian language, "Hawaii Creole English" is called "ʻōlelo paʻi ʻai", which literally means "pounding-taro language".[2]


Pidgin (or Hawaii Creole) originated as a form of communication used between English speaking residents and non-English speaking immigrants in Hawaii.[3] It supplanted the pidgin Hawaiian used on the plantations and elsewhere in Hawaii. It has been influenced by many languages, including Portuguese, Hawaiian, and Cantonese. As people of other language backgrounds were brought in to work on the plantations, such as Japanese, Filipinos, and Koreans, Pidgin acquired words from these languages. Japanese loanwords in Hawaii lists some of those words originally from Japanese. It has also been influenced to a lesser degree by Spanish spoken by Mexican and Puerto Rican settlers in Hawaii. Even today, Pidgin retains some influences from these languages. For example, the word "stay" in Pidgin has a form and use similar to the Portuguese verb "ficar" or Spanish "estar", which mean "to be" but are used only when referring to a temporary state or location.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Pidgin started to be used outside the plantation between ethnic groups. Public school children learned Pidgin from their classmates, and eventually it became the primary language of most people in Hawaii, replacing the original languages. For this reason, linguists generally consider Hawaii Pidgin to be a creole language.

Some of the common greeting and goodbyes in Pidgin include:
Shoots = Bye/Okay; positive affirmation of statement
Aloha = Hello, Goodbye, Love
A Hui Hou = Until we meet again
Malama Pono = Take Care
Make (Hawaiian pronunciation: [mɐke]) = Dead


Pidgin has distinct pronunciation differences from standard American English (SAE). Some key differences include the following:

  • Th-stopping: [θ] and [ð] are pronounced as [t] or [d] respectively—that is, changed from a fricative to a plosive (stop). For instance, think [θiŋk] becomes [tiŋk], and that [ðæt] becomes [dæt].
  • L-vocalization: Word-final l [l~ɫ] is often pronounced [o] or [ol]. For instance, mental [mɛntəl] is often pronounced [mɛntoː]; people is pronounced peepo.
  • Pidgin is non-rhotic. That is, r after a vowel is often omitted, similar to many dialects, such as Eastern New England, Australian English, and English English variants. For instance, car is often pronounced cah, and letter is pronounced letta. Intrusive r is also used. The number of Hawaii Pidgin speakers with rhotic English has also been increasing.
  • Falling intonation is used at the end of questions. This feature appears to be from Hawaiian, and is shared with some other Oceanic languages, including Fijian and Samoan.

Grammatical features

Pidgin also has distinct grammatical forms not found in SAE, but some of which are shared with other dialectal forms of English or may derive from other linguistic influences.

Forms used for SAE "to be":

  • Generally, forms of English "to be" (i.e. the copula) are omitted when referring to inherent qualities of an object or person, forming in essence a stative verb form. Additionally, inverted sentence order may be used for emphasis. (Many East Asian languages use stative verbs instead of the copula-adjective construction of English and other Western languages.)
Da baby cute. (or) Cute, da baby.
The baby is cute.

Note that these constructions also mimic the grammar of the Hawaiian language. In Hawaiian, "nani ka pēpē" or "kiuke ka pēpē" is literally "cute, the baby" and is perfectly correct Hawaiian grammar meaning in English, "The baby is cute."

  • When the verb "to be" refers to a temporary state or location, the word stay is used (see above). This may be influenced by other Pacific creoles, which use the word stap, from stop, to denote a temporary state or location. In fact, stop was used in Pidgin earlier in its history, and may have been dropped in favor of stay due to influence from Portuguese estar or ficar (literally 'to stay').
Da book stay on top da table.
The book is on the table.
Da water stay cold.
The water is cold.

For tense-marking of verb, auxiliary verbs are employed:

  • To express past tense, Pidgin uses wen (went) in front of the verb.
Joey wen cry.
Joey cried.
  • To express future tense, Pidgin uses goin (going), derived from the going-to future common in informal varieties of American English.
Shaun goin stay here.
Shaun is going to stay here.
  • To express past tense negative, Pidgin uses neva (never). Neva can also mean "never" as in normal English usage; context sometimes, but not always, makes the meaning clear.
He neva like dat.
He didn't want that. (or) He never wanted that. (or) He didn't like that.
  • Use of fo (for) in place of the infinitive particle "to". Cf. dialectal form "Going for to carry me home."
I tryin fo tink. (or) I try fo tink.
I'm trying to think.

For more information on grammar, also see Sakoda & Siegel (References, below) and the Pidgin Coup paper (External links, below).

Literature and performing arts

In recent years, writers from Hawaii such as Lois-Ann Yamanaka and Lee Tonouchi have written poems, short stories, and other works in Pidgin. A Pidgin translation of the New Testament (called Da Jesus Book) has also been created, as has an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, or What You Will, titled in Pidgin "twelf nite o' WATEVA!"

Several theater companies in Hawaii produce plays written and performed in Pidgin. The most notable of these companies is Kumu Kahua Theater.

See also



Further reading

External links

  • Searchable Pidgin English Dictionary
  • The Charlene Sato Center for Pidgin, Creole and Dialect Studies, a center devoted to pidgin, creole, and dialect studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Hawaiʻi. Also home of the Pidgin Coup, a group of academics and community members interested in Hawaiʻi Pidgin related research and education
  • Position Paper on Pidgin by the "Pidgin Coup"
  • i Pidgin Bible (see Da Jesus Book below)
  • Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine Vol.12 No.1 (Jan. 2008).
  • "Liddo Bitta Tita" audio file

Template:Languages of Hawaii

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