Hawaiian Creole

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Not to be confused with Pidgin Hawaiian, an extinct language.

Hawaiian Creole, popularly known as Hawaiian Pidgin, is one of several languages spoken in the U.S. state of Hawaii. Despite its common name, it is a creole, meaning that it was created through children acquiring a pidgin as their first language and thereby making it as complex as any other language. Hawaiian Creole replaced an earlier pidgin which was based on the Hawaiian language.

English and Hawaiian, a Polynesian language, are official in Hawaii. Reflecting high immigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, several other languages have been or continue to be spoken, including Japanese, Filipino and various Chinese varieties. Many of these immigrant languages were brought from East and South-East Asia and the need for speakers of diverse language backgrounds to communicate led to the development of Pidgin Hawaiian, a fairly rudimentary pidgin language drawing much of its vocabulary from Hawaiian, but with many languages contributing to its formation. In the 1890s and afterwards, the increased spread of English favored the use of an English-based pidgin instead, which, once nativized as the first language of children, developed into a creole which today is misleadingly called Hawaiian 'Pidgin'.

Hawaiian Creole is well-studied in the field of linguistics known as creolistics because, unlike most other creoles found in the Atlantic and Pacific regions, the native 'substrate' languages of the first speakers were mainly Asian or Polynesian rather than African. Any similarities between Hawaiian Creole and its counterparts in the Caribbean, South America and elsewhere could be accounted for due to innate mechanisms of the human mind, and/or possibly common environmental conditions, rather than structures derived from the same 'substrate' languages. The idea that observed similarities between creoles are due to a linguistic system common to all humans is known as the language bioprogram hypothesis (LBH), as devised by Derek Bickerton.[1] Hawaiian Creole has been central to Bickerton's case, though the LBH is not widely accepted by most creolists.[2]


  1. e.g. Bickerton (1984).
  2. e.g Siegel (2008: 8; 66-78; 91-104; 133-134).

See also