Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Another ōlelo no’eau
Okay, so I've been listening to Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu's CD "Call It What You Like" in the car lately driving around Lawrence and it's definitely got me in a Hawaiian mood. As any of you who've followed my blog know, I occasionally try to find tidbits of wisdom, proverbs, or stories from the languages I'm studying. (Notice I don't use the past tense "studied." I mean, do we ever really finish "studying" a language, whether it's a new foreign language or our own mother tongue? I think learning a language is a lifelong process and a lifelong endeavor. I point that out to my students of Spanish who think they'll "study" Spanish for one or two semesters and then they'll know it and be done with it. That just makes me want to quote Nelson on the Simpsons and say, "Ha ha!")
Anyhow, Hawaiian. Here is the latest ōlelo no’eau ("important saying" or proverb) from Hawai'i:
Maka'ala ke kanaka kahea manu.
alert DEF man call bird
A man who calls birds should always be alert.
The ancient Hawaiian ali'i, chiefs, wore capes and headdresses crafted by weaving in thousands of tiny bird feathers. The Kanaka Kahea Manu, bird-caller, would imitate bird calls to attract birds to him. When they approached, he would pluck out a small number of their feathers and let the birds go. Once he called the birds, he had to stay alert and be prepared to move quickly to catch them when they came near. This proverb advises one who wishes to succeed to be alert to opportunities and seize them when they arise.
By the way, that definite article ke reminds me of something. Do any ōlelo Hawai'i kine out there know the answer to this question? It appears other Polynesian languages have only one form of the definite article, such as Tahitian and Māori te. Hawaiian, however, has two: ke and ka. I know ke is used most often before nouns beginning with a vowel or the letter k (e.g., ke ala, ke kanaka) and ka is used before nouns beginning with all other consonants, including glottal stops (e.g., ka hula, ka 'aina). But why do a few words beginning with p (e.g., pā, dish and po'o, head) require ke instead of ka before them? So far I've found no good answers in the dictionaries or grammar books I have. Has this phenomenon even been studied? (Aw, it must have been!)
Ā hui hou.