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(from Pukui, et al., Hawaiian Dictionary, (revised 1986))

Pronunciation of Hawaiian


p, k, - about as in English but with less aspiration.
h, l, m, n
- about as in English; lmay be dental-alveolar and ndental.
- after iand eusually a lax v;after uand ousually like w;after aor initially, like wor v.
` - a glottal stop, similar to the sound between the oh?s in English oh-oh.


- like a in above
- like e in bet
- like y in city
- like o in sole 1
- like oo in moon 1

1 but without off-glides

a, ` a
? like a in far 2
? like e in bet 2
? like ay in pay 2
i, ` i
- like ee in see 2
o, `o
? like o in sole 2
2 but without off-glides; vowels marked with macrons are somewhat longer than other vowels and are always stressed.

Rising Diphthongs

ei, eu, oi, ou, ai, ae, ao, au
Always stressed on the first element, but the second element has more vowel quality than the off-glide in an English diphthong.

Even Diphthong


Stress (or accent)

Stress is a system that marks one syllable as more prominent than those around it. Contrary to many statements about Polynesian languages, there are no rules to predict which syllable will be stressed in words of more than four syllables. For shorter words, however, stress is predictable. The stress is placed on the second syllable from the end, a long vowel, or a diphthong (long or short).

Thus, there are three kinds of stress units: 1) a dissyllable (such as maka"eye"); 2) a syllable with a long vowel or a diphthong; and 3) either of these two types preceded by an unstressed syllable (such as mahalo"thank you" or makai"toward the sea"). For such short words, the stress is always predictable; on the last vowel or diphthong, or (if the syllables are short) on the second-to-last-syllable.

For a stress pattern of longer words, follow this simple premise: long words are composed of a series of two or more such units, each of which has one stress.

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Updated: 5 Feb 1999