What language is spoken on the Forbidden island of Niihau?


Well you would be partially correct if you said the language was Hawaiian. In actuality the language spoken in Niihau is a dialect of the original language. Here's the explanation.

The Hawaiian language as it was used for centuries in pre-contact Hawaii was a verbal language that was passed down through oral tradition over the course of years. It was only when the missionaries came to Hawaii in the early 1800's that they taught the Hawaiians how to configure the language into a written form so it could be both written and read. The effectiveness of these teachings and the willingness of the Hawaiians to learn them was a remarkably successful endeavor and within a period of decades Hawaii had become one of the most literate places on the face of the earth. Full 90% of the population knew how to read and write and there were about 100 separate newspapers throughout the territory that were all written in Hawaiian.

All this began to unravel however when the process of annexation to the United States began in the late 1800's. The territorial schools forbade to speaking of Hawaiian and actually punished children for speaking it and within a short period of time the language saw a steep decline of usage in Hawaii.

The only enclave in Hawaii that was spared the fate of the gradual elimination of the Hawaiian language was the small and very remote island of Niihau. Because of its remoteness and its relative isolation from the rest of Hawaii, the island of Niihau continued the traditions of its home language and still does to this day. Because of its use over the years being only with residents of the island itself, the language began to morph into what is considered today a specific dialect of the original Hawaiian. Originally the language kept a foothold on Niihau because of its remoteness and later because of the pride the people had in keeping the Hawaiian language alive. Unfortunately as today's world has evolved more and more children from Niihau have relocated away from the island and although it is still spoken there the gap between the original Hawaiian with its rich oral traditions and its more diluted current dialect. A decline has taken place as more and more of its inhabitants have become interwoven with the customs and languages of the outside world.





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