The Hawaiian Language

Explanation of Hawaiian Language

Written Hawaiian uses two diacritical markings as pronunciation guides:

  • The ‘okina, which is typographically represented as a reversed apostrophe. In spoken Hawaiian, the ‘okina indicates a glottal stop, or clean break between vowels. If your browser supports this display (and it may not, depending on browser type and settings), an ‘okina should look like this: ‘. If browsing conditions do not support this display, you might be seeing a box, a blank space, or odd-looking character instead.
  • The kahako, or macron, which is typographically represented as a bar above the letter, as in ā (again, you will see it correctly only if your browser delivers it correctly). The macron on a vowel indicates increased duration in pronunciation of the vowel that it appears over.

Web browsers sometimes have difficulty reproducing these markings without the use of graphics, special fonts, or special coding. Even correctly authored Web pages that use Unicode coding may be transmitted through a server that displays the symbols incorrectly or the browser may use a replacement font that displays these incorrectly.

Since most browsers can and do display the ASCII grave symbol (‘) as coded, this site uses the grave symbol to represent the ‘okina. We do depict the correct ‘okina on all pages in the title graphic because it is embedded in the graphic and not displayed as text.

The kahako/macron is more problematic. Given the problems with displaying this with current technology, some websites resort to displaying these with diaeresis characters instead, as in ä, which will appear in most browsers (but not all) as an "a" with two dots over it. However, this is not a desirable solution because it doesn't work uniformly in all browser situations. Until Unicode fonts are more universally displayable, the site reluctantly omits the kahako from most text.

For up-to-date information on how to display the Hawaiian language on websites, visit by the Kualono Hawaiian Language Center of the University of Hawaii. General information on these issues can also be found at and

What Is This Important?

The Hawaiian language is one of two official languages of Hawaii (the other being English).  Although English is widely used, Hawaiian continues to be used in certain communities and settings.  Hawaiian is vital to current cultural practices and understanding.  As technology improves, and as resources become available, we will improve the site to incorporate and use diacritical markings of present-day written Hawaiian to the fullest extent possible.  In certain historical contexts, we will maintain the original Hawaiian which did not use such markings (for example:  Iolani Hale, Halealii).