Albert Schütz publishes paper about first Hawaiian primer

Professor Emeritus Al Schütz recently published a paper on the first Hawaiian primer in the journal Palapala:

Schütz, Albert J. 2017a. Reading between the lines: A closer look at the first Hawaiian
primer (1822). Palapala– He Puke Pai no ka ʻOlelo me ka Moʻolelo Hawaiʻi (A Journal
for Hawaiian Language and Literature)
1:1–29, 173–90.

This is related to the presentation he gave earlier at the Mission Houses Museum.

Albert Schütz presents at Mission Houses Museum

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.

For more information, please find the eNewsletter below:

Fijian Reference Grammar

Kudos to Albert Schutz on the May 2014 publication of his comprehensive, seminal Fijian Reference Grammar!  For more information read about it in Pacific News from Manoa.


Schütz, Albert J. 2014. Fijian Reference Grammar. Honolulu: PacificVoices. xxxvii, 453 pp. Order from Amazon, U.S. $22.50. (As of 4 July 2014, Amazon was offering free shipping on orders over $35, but this offer seems to apply to the U.S. only.)


When Al Schütz was asked by his Cornell professor in early 1960 if he’d be interested in going to Fiji, his response was “Sure. Where is it?” This is understandable, perhaps, for someone only five years removed from the family farm, and who had not yet seen the Pacific Ocean. Obviously, geography was not part of his undergraduate Liberal Arts education.

If someone had told him that he’d still be working on Fijian over a half-century later, he would not have believed it.

The two years that followed could not have been more of a contrast. He spent the summer at the University of Hawai‘i, working as an assistant teacher for two courses and gathering information on Fijian at the UH and Bishop Museum Libraries. For ten months in 1960–61, he conducted a dialect survey in Fiji, recording information from speakers in 105 villages from most of the major island groups. How did he travel? By small car, bus, foot, outboard, government boat, sailboat, plane, and horseback. (He would like to add to the list “bamboo raft,” cleverly referred to by Fijians as “H.M.S. No-Come-Back,” but that was only for an afternoon’s respite from interviews on the island of Vanua Levu.)

After leaving Fiji, he spent a term at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, taking anthropology courses, working on the data he’d collected, and conferring with George B. Milner, who was kind enough to serve as his mentor. Later, back at Cornell, he finished his PhD dissertation—“A Dialect Survey of Viti Levu”—just in time to accept a position at the University of Hawai‘i.

His next contact with the language took place after two summers of fieldwork on a related language, Nguna, from what was called then the New Hebrides, and now Vanuatu. In 1967 and 1968, he worked with Rātū Rusiate T. Komaitai on language lessons for Peace Corps trainees, eventually published as Spoken Fijian (University of Hawai‘i Press, 1971).

Schütz’s most concentrated work on Fijian grammar began when he served as Director of the Fijian (Monolingual) Dictionary Project (1972–79), sponsored for the first two years by a grant from Raymond Burr’s American-Fijian Foundation, the Australian Cultural Fund, UNESCO, and the Fiji Government. After 1979, Schütz continued to work with the project, concentrating on completing the grammar, aided significantly by a grant from the U.S.’s National Endowment for the Humanities. Titled The Fijian Language, it was finished in 1985 and published by the University of Hawai‘i Press. Now, long out of print, it served as the foundation for the new grammar.

The grammar

Fijian Reference Grammar is based on data, not on linguistic theories, and relies heavily on language in context. The data used include material written and spoken by Fijians–ranging from advice offered by the author’s colleagues in the Fijian Dictionary Project to Fijian-language newspapers and textbooks. Included also are recordings of loanwords and casual conversations, and—most recently—the text and DVD of a Fijian play, Lakovi, by Apolonia Tamata and Larry Thomas.

For the historical and linguistic background, the author consulted collections in sixteen libraries and archives in the following cities: Cambridge MA, Canberra, Dunedin, Honolulu, London, Salem MA, Sydney, Suva, Sydney, Washington D.C., and Wellington.

Although the book is based on The Fijian Language, it includes significant deletions and additions. First, the long historical introduction and the appendix of twenty annotated pre-missionary word lists were removed and combined into a work tentatively entitled Early Studies of Fijian, to appear on-line for students and teachers in Fiji.

Here are the major changes:

1. Now that the monolingual Fijian dictionary, Na iVolavosa vakaViti, has been published, it has been possible to expand the discussion of the sound system to include more recent additions to the alphabet—borrowings from both related and unrelated languages within Fiji. Some new words do not follow the traditional Fijian syllable structure. However, the dictionary does not go far beyond identifying the sources of the new words. Therefore, the treatment in the grammar is open-ended, pointing the way to potential research on which domains allow, or do not allow, what appear to be non-Fijian sounds and combinations of sounds.

2. The beginnings of such a sociolinguistic study grew out of the play Lakovi, which exists in both printed and DVD form. It offers written and spoken examples of different speech styles in context, while also providing such information as approximate ages and kinship relationships among the speakers. Fijian-language plays now in progress promise to provide additional data.

3. Many recent studies of Polynesian languages and Fijian attempt to write rules to predict the placement of accent. A study of the relationship between accent units and morphemes (meaningful elements of words) adds weight to Schütz’s argument that accent guides the hearer to meaning, not the other way around. Rules can apply only to forms up to and including four short syllables.

4. Suggestions from two extensive reviews of the previous grammar have been considered; some have been incorporated, others rejected.

5. Some studies that appeared after 1985, especially those conducted by linguists familiar with the language, provided additions to the lists and discussions of grammatical markers. Other studies, in particular those by linguists with very little contact with the language, provided convenient targets for criticism of statements about the language based on selected sentences taken out of context.

The author

Albert J. Schütz, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, has been engaged in Fijian language research since 1960. His first fieldwork, for a dialect geography, involved collecting and analyzing data from 105 villages. In 1971 he was appointed Director of a monolingual dictionary project in Suva, a position he held until 1979. With the help and advice of the dictionary staff, he continued to work on a grammar, The Fijian language, the predecessor to the present work. Dr. Schütz has published 40 books, monographs, articles, and reviews dealing with the Fijian language, its history, phonology, grammar, and dialects. He developed materials for workshops and, along with Rusiate T. Komaitai, language materials for the Peace Corps. Most recently, he is finishing Hawaiian: Past, Present, and Future and producing an e-book for visitors to Fiji, with words and phrases read by a native speaker.