New Hawaiian Language Dictionary
does it take to create a Hawaiian-language dictionary with nearly 6,000 new words
that facilitate conversations about Nintendo games, the latest discoveries in
astronomy, hydroponics and the Internet? Eight dedicated volunteers, 17 years
and plenty of patience.|
To understand the significance of the recently published Mämaka Kaiao, A Modern Hawaiian Vocabulary, one must appreciate the Hawaiian language immersion program that began 21 years ago.
Students who were immersed in Hawaiian from the time they were in preschool are now in college, and require a new vocabulary to match advancements in science and technology. So do the pupils progressing through the 22 DOE schools in the state that are currently instructing primarily in Hawaiian.
"The major impetus for this work came from that need," says Larry Kimura, an assistant professor in the College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo, co-founder of the immersion program and chairman of the committee that created the lexicon. "The world moves very quickly."
Established in 1987, the first Hawaiian Lexicon Committee (Komike Hua'olelo) was made up of native speakers creating words for ideas that were unknown to their ancestors. Providing an essential tool for the contemporary Hawaiian language speaker was so important to these committee members that they volunteered their time to fly to O'ahu bimonthly, meet all day to discuss new suggestions from group members and work through their differences. "It's been bumpy," Kimura says of the process, which he describes as long and tedious.
However, Kimura also says that everyone came to the table with one essential ingredient: the desire to help "make sense of things," and keep the language alive in a changing world.