[huh-wahy-uhn, -wah-yuhn]
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.

Any of the aboriginal people of Hawaii. They are the descendants of Polynesians who migrated to Hawaii in two waves: the first from the Marquesas Islands probably circa AD 400; the second from Tahiti in the 9th or 10th century. Without metals, pottery, or beasts of burden, Hawaiians made implements of stone, wood, shell, teeth, and bone. They had a highly developed oral culture and possessed percussion, string, and wind instruments. Their basic unit of land, the ahupuaa, usually extended from the shore to the mountaintop, providing the occupants with the means to grow and gather all they needed. Hawaiians had four principal gods and many lesser deities. Their laws, which included intricate taboos, bore heavily upon the people, especially women. After the arrival of Christian missionaries in 1820, some of the more repressive laws and taboos were abolished, but the native population was devastated by Western diseases. Numbering about 300,000 in 1778, full-blooded Hawaiians today number fewer than 10,000.

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