Hawaiian Pidgin English (alternately Hawaiian Creole English or HCE, known locally as Pidgin) is an English-basedcreole language spoken in Hawaiʻi (L1: 600,000; L2: 400,000). Although English and Hawaiian are the co-official languages of the state of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian Pidgin is spoken by many Hawaiʻi residents in everyday conversation and is often used in advertising targeted toward locals in Hawaiʻi. In the Hawaiian language, Hawaiian Creole English is called "ʻōlelo paʻi ʻai", which literally means "pounding-taro language".
Despite its name, Hawaiian Pidgin is not a pidgin, but rather a full-fledged, nativized, and demographically stable creole language. It did, however, evolve from various real pidgins spoken as common languages between ethnic groups in Hawaiʻi.
Hawaiian Pidgin originated on sugarcaneplantations as a form of communication used between English speaking residents and non-English speaking Native Hawaiians and foreign immigrants. It supplanted, and was influenced by, the existing pidgin that Native Hawaiians already used on plantations and elsewhere in Hawaiʻi. Because such sugarcane plantations often hired workers from many different countries, a common language was needed in order for the plantation workers to communicate effectively with each other and their supervisors. Hawaiian Pidgin has been influenced by many different languages, including Portuguese, Hawaiian, American English, and Cantonese. As people of other language backgrounds were brought in to work on the plantations, such as Japanese, Filipinos, and Koreans, Hawaiian Pidgin acquired words from these languages. Japanese loanwords in Hawaiʻi lists some of those words originally from Japanese. It has also been influenced to a lesser degree by Spanish spoken by Puerto Rican settlers in Hawaiʻi. Hawaiian Pidgin was created mainly as a means of communication or to facilitate cooperation between the immigrants and the Americans to get business done. Even today, Hawaiian Pidgin retains some influences from these languages. For example, the word "stay" in Hawaiian Pidgin has a form and use similar to the Hawaiian verb "noho", 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, Hawaiian Pidgin started to be used outside the plantation between ethnic groups. Public school children learned Hawaiian Pidgin from their classmates and parents. Living in a community mixed with various cultures led to the daily usage of Hawaiian Pidgin, also causing the language to expand. Children growing up with this language expanded Hawaiian Pidgin as their first language, or mother tongue. For this reason, linguists generally consider Hawaiian Pidgin to be a creole language. A five-year survey that the U.S. Census Bureau conducted in Hawaiʻi and released in November 2015 revealed that many people spoke Pidgin as an additional language. Because of this, in 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau added Pidgin to its list of official languages in the state of Hawaiʻi.
Hawaiian 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]. An example is “Broke da mout.”
L-vocalization: Word-final l[l~ɫ] is often pronounced [o] or [ol]. For instance, mental/mɛntəl/ is often pronounced [mɛntoː]; people is pronounced [pipo].
Hawaiian Pidgin has falling intonation in questions. In yes/no questions, falling intonation is striking and appears to be a lasting imprint of Hawaiian (this pattern is not found in yes/no question intonation in American English). This particular falling intonation pattern is shared with some other Oceanic languages, including Fijian and Samoan (Murphy, K. 2013).
Hawaiian 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 behbeh cute. (or) Cute, da behbeh.
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 Hawaiian Pidgin earlier in its history, and may have been dropped in favor of stay due to influence from Portuguese estar or ficar (ficar is literally translated to English as 'to stay', but often used in place of "to be" e.g. "ele fica feliz" he is happy).
Murphy, Kelly (2013). Melodies of Hawai‘i: The relationship between Hawai‘i Creole English and ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi prosody. University of Calgary PhD dissertation.
Sally Stewart (2001). "Hawaiian English". Lonely Planet USA Phrasebook. Lonely Planet Publications. pp. 262–266. ISBN1-86450-182-0.
Speidel, Gisela E. (1981). "Language and reading: bridging the language difference for children who speak Hawaiian English". Educational Perspectives. 20: 23–30.
Speidel, G. E., Tharp, R. G., and Kobayashi, L. (1985). "Is there a comprehension problem for children who speak nonstandard English? A study of children with Hawaiian English backgrounds". Applied Psycholinguistics. 6 (01): 83–96. doi:10.1017/S0142716400006020.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)