Kamakawi Phonology

To be quite honest with you (and, you should know, honesty is number one with me), I feel bad including a phonology section for this language, because its phonology is so itsy-bitsy. Nevertheless, here it is: A page on the world wide web. A whole page! No one will ever be able to use the above url so long as I live. Why? Because the tiny little phonology of Kamakawi will be there. Forever! So, here goes.


  Bilabial Labio-Dental Dental Palatal Velar Labio-Velar Glottal
Stops p   t   k   ' (=ʔ)
Fricatives   f, v         h
Nasals m   n        
Approximants     l y (=j)   w  

So, those are the sounds. As for the rules, well, since there aren't many sounds, there aren't many rules. Yet, rules there are. They are:

  • /h/ > [ʔ] / V_V ([h] otherwise)
  • /f/ > [v] / V_V ([f] otherwise)

I think that's it for the consonants*, so now onto the fabulous vowels!

* I suppose it's worth mentioning that /t/ gets flapped in non-initial, non-tonic and non-pretonic positions. I guess I forgot about that...

Fabulous Vowels!

  Front Central Back
Close i   u
Close-Mid   ə  
Open-Mid e (=ɛ)   o (=ɔ)
Open   a  

Not very exciting, actually. Again, there are only a couple of rules. Here they are:

  • /a/ > [ə] / when not tonic or pretonic or word-initial ([a] otherwise)
  • /i, u/ > [j, w] / #...V_V ([i] and [u] otherwise)

The above can lead to minimal pairs such as the following:

Romanization Phonologically Phonetically Meaning
poiu p-o-i-u [pɔ.'i.u] "to go out of/from"
poyu p-o-i-u ['pɔ.ju] "chin"
kaui k-a-u-i [ka.'u.i] "matchmaker"
kawi k-a-u-i ['ka.wi] "cloud"

Notice the phonological spellings. It's important to note, though, that both "kaui" and "poiu" (using the Romanization) are comprised of what were originally two separate words: "ka" (two) + "ui" (to conjoin) = "kaui"; "po" (outside) + "iu" (to go through) = "poiu".

The last thing to note in this phonology section (other than the stress, which is on the penultimate syllable, save where marked) is that hiatus is possible and frequent. There is, for example, a word "aeiu" which is phonetically [ʔa.ɛ.'i.u], and it means "to go inside" (it's also comprised of two elements). And, as you may have noticed, words beginning with vowels really begin with glottal stops—just like words beginning with /ʔ/ really begin with [h]. Funny world, isn't it?

Back to Kamakawi Main

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