Hawaiian, member of the Polynesian group of the Austronesian family of languages. Of the fewer than 10,000 people who speak Hawaiian, only a few hundred are native speakers, but the language is taught in some Hawaiian schools and remains important as a symbol of ethnic identity. It also is an official language of the state of Hawaii. Proto-Polynesian, the parent language of Hawaiian, was spoken in W Polynesia c.1500–1200 B.C. Hawaiian bears significant phonological similarities to the other Polynesian languages; consonant and vowel correspondences among the languages is common. Hawaiian has five long and five short vowels and eight consonants. It differs from most of the other Polynesian languages by its lack of the consonant t, which became k in Hawaiian as it diverged from the parent language.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on Hawaiian from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Language and Linguistics