Monday, October 21, 2019

An Ear for Language

People often assume that I live in Hawai’i, because I incorporate so many cultural references, particularly bits of Hawaiian pidgin. While I wish (so much!) that I lived in the Aloha State, I have to get by with research.

One element of my research that I rarely hear other authors mention is audio and video. The last couple of times I was in Hawai’i, I made sure to listen to the radio, to hear commentators and traffic reports with the unique local accent. Now that I am home, I follow Hawaiian 105 KINE on Facebook whenever I want to hear someone speak, and to hear the musical artists they bring into their studio.

I usually avoid using macrons over letters in my published works, because English speakers have a different interpretation of those diacritical marks. We’ve been trained that ā in a dictionary definition means a long a, as in Abe. In Hawaiian, though, it means you put more emphasis on that vowel than you ordinarily might.

I remember being stunned the first time I heard an announcer mention a traffic pile up in Mānoa, near the University of Hawai’i campus. Mānoa is pronounced MAAH-no-ah, as best as I can represent, where an English-speaker might think from the macron it’s pronounced MAY-no-ah.

While I’ve read blogs and definitions of the macron, there’s no substitute for hearing the way a local pronounces such words. Now, thanks to the Internet, Facebook and YouTube, I can hear those pronunciations whenever I want.

I have learned about Ka Lahui Hawaii, the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, from them (which also features in Mahu Blood.)

They are also filming the protests at Mauna Kea by Pu'uhonua o Pu'uhuluhulu Maunakea to protect sacred land there. I have heard wonderful chants and watched beautiful hula dances there, by both men and women. It’s a very moving spectacle, and one that may inspire a future book!

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