The Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives held its annual meeting on 22 April 2017. The focus for this year’s meeting was the newly restored Print Shop, which, in 1822, produced the first book in Hawaiian (The Alphabet, a 16-page language primer). It was this book that marked the beginning of Hawaiian literacy.
To emphasize the cooperation between the Hawaiians and the American missionary/linguists, Executive Director Tom Woods arranged for talks and papers related to the complementary aspects of the project. John Laimana, historian, spoke on how the Hawaiians embraced, aided, and encouraged the palapala (‘writing; book’). Al Schütz explained how the unusual content and organization of The Alphabet could be traced to Noah Webster’s primers of the period, extremely popular and familiar to nearly every American student. He also reframed the primer in modern linguistic terms, showing how a number of its features could be explained by the authors’ inability to recognize glottal stops and long vowels.
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