Glyph of the word 'ilalau'. or Alternate glyph of the word 'ilalau'.


  • (v.) to be literate
  • (n.) literacy
  • (adj.) literate
  • (n.) familiarity (with some subject matter)

Ilalau o u ikavaka ti-Kavaka i oi’i.
“I’m familiar with the works of Kafka.”

Notes: Or literally, “Familiarity of the books of Kafka is with me”. Today I wanted to mention that I’m relaunching (finally) a formerly low-tech section of my website as a new WordPress blog: the book reviews section. I’ll be posting there semi-frequently (along with my wife, my brother-in-law, and my good friend from college) about what I’m reading, and I’ll also continue to review books. (And, of course, they’ll do the same thing. The parentheses don’t really work there with the rest of the sentence… I.e. they won’t be posting about what I’m reading [though it would be amusing if they did].) Anyway, if you enjoy that kind of thing, the blog is called Literature, Literature, Literature…

Today’s word is quite tangled. It’s derived from the word ilau, “to read”. The idea is that to read over a prolonged period of time is to read with ease, and reading with ease is what defines literacy (this is reading literacy, not necessarily writing literacy. I’d say the former is higher than the latter on the islands). The reduplication pattern is quite strange, though (coming from ilau, that is), so there’s a couple of different schools of thought on how to spell it. The first is the traditional way, but the second has its own story.

See, since the reduplication pattern is so strange, the word sounds like i- plus lalau (which I haven’t done yet, but which means “to throw”). The i of the traditional spelling, then, was replaced with i-, with a new meaning arising from the spelling: the latter meaning about familiarity with a subject (think of it like the word “fluency” in “cultural fluency”). At the time I’m thinking of, the spellings haven’t separated into different meanings yet (or not completely), but they’re on their way.

And these meanings remain distinct from the other ilalau (which I haven’t done yet), but the similarity of the words led to another meaning for that word which I’ll get to when the time comes.

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