Pidgin and Hawai‘i English: An overview

Katie Drager

Today, most people from Hawai‘i speak Pidgin, Hawai‘i English, or both. This paper presents a brief discussion of the history of both the creole (called Pidgin or Hawaii Creole) and the variety of English spoken in Hawai‘i referred to as Hawai‘i English. The creation of Pidgin and the prevalence of English in Hawai‘i have a complex history closely tied with various sociohistorical events in the islands, and the social hegemony established during the plantation days still persists today. While Pidgin is stigmatized and is deemed inappropriate for use in formal domains, it has important social functions, and the infl uence from diff erent languages is viewed as representative of the ethnic diversity found in the islands. This paper treats Pidgin and Hawaii English as independent from one another while commenting on some of the linguistic forms that are found in both. Lexical items, phonological forms,and syntactic structures of Pidgin and Hawai‘i English are presented alongside a discussion of language attitudes and ideologies. Recent work that attempts to address the negative attitudes toward Pidgin is also discussed.

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Author Biography
Katie Drager, University o Hawaii

Katie Drager is an Assistant Professor of Sociolinguistics in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She is also Co-Director of the Charlene Sato Center for Pidgin, Creole, and Dialect Studies. Using a combination of ethnographic, experimental, and variationist techniques, Dr. Drager’s work investigates how individuals access their mental representations of linguistic and social knowledge in the production and perception of speech and in the construction of their social personae. Since completing her PhD in New Zealand in 2009, she has continued this line of research in Hawai‘i. Together with her students, Dr. Drager has provided the first acoustic phonetic description of Hawai‘i English, and she is currently working on a sociophonetic description of Pidgin. Her work can be found in international journals such as Language and Speech, Journal of Phonetics, and Language Variation and Change.