Today’s ‘Timeline Tuesday’ takes us through the 1970s – first Waikiki Roughwater swim, first Merrie Monarch, Hokule‘a launched and English and Hawaiian are recognized as official State languages.. We look at what was happening in Hawai‘i during this time period and what else was happening around the rest of the world
Noah Webster (1758-1843) was the man of words in early 19th-century America. He compiled a dictionary which became the standard for American English; he also compiled The American Spelling Book, which was the basic textbook for young readers in early 19th-century America. The Speller’s Preface notes the priority in learning, “The syllables of words are divided as they are pronounced, and for this obvious reason, that children learn the language by the ear.”
And so it was with the American Protestant Missionaries teaching the Hawaiians to read and write their own language. Just as American schoolchildren spelled aloud by naming the letters that formed the first syllable, and then pronouncing the result: “b, a – ba,” so did Hawaiian learners. (However, back then, Webster used ‘y’ as a vowel; the missionaries did not.) The Hawaiian version also used the names of the letters and the resultant syllable: bē ā – bā; by 1824, this had become the Hawaiian word for ‘alphabet’. However, after b had been eliminated from the alphabet, p took its place in this new name.
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US, led by Hiram Bingham, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 – the “Missionary Period”,) about 180-men and women in twelve Companies served in Hawaiʻi to carry out the mission of the ABCFM in the Hawaiian Islands.
Over the years, the growing partnership and collaboration between native Hawaiians and the American Protestant missionaries resulted in the introduction of Christianity, a written Hawaiian language, literacy, constitutional government, Western medicine and an evolving music tradition.
“E nā ali‘i a me nā maka‘āinana, he aupuni palapala ko‘u, a ‘o ke kanaka pono a na‘auao, ‘o ia ko‘u kanaka.” (To all ali‘i and commoners alike, mine is a literate country, and the just and intelligent man is my countryman. (Kauikeaouli – Kamehameha III; Nūpepa Kū‘oko‘a (May 23, 1868;) Puette) The planning for the formal written Hawaiian language in the early part of the nineteenth century was started by the American Protestant missionaries who arrived in Hawaii, starting in 1820.
“… we commenced printing the language in order to give them letters, libraries, and the living oracles in their own tongue, that the nation might read and understand the wonderful works of God.” Through the collaboration between the Hawaiian Chiefs and the American Protestant missionaries, by 1832, the literacy rate of Hawaiians (at the time was 78 percent) had surpassed that of Americans on the continent. (Laimana)
Noah Webster (1758-1843) was the man of words in early 19th-century America.; he compiled a dictionary which became the standard for American English. Webster devised a method to help differentiate between the sounds of vowels and assigned numbers to various letter sounds – and used these in his Speller.
It seems Henry ʻŌpūkahaʻia used Webster’s Speller in his writings and substituted the numbers assigned to the various sounds into his words. So, using Webster’s coding, to decipher ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s ‘k3-n3-k3,’ you substitute the “3” for “a” (that sounds like “hall;”) k3-n3-k3 transforms to kanaka (man.) 3-o-le transforms to ʻaʻole (no;); l8-n3 transforms to luna (upper) and 8-8-k8 transforms to ʻuʻuku (small.)