Glyph of the word 'la'. and Glyph of the word 'la'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable la in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (n.) spear
  • (expr.) a positive answer to a negative question

He tivale ei ie la li’i…
“Let me sharpen my spear…”

Notes: Good ol’ la pops up a lot. The determined version is used for “spear”, and the other is used for a positive answer to a negative question. We don’t have a word for this in English, but other languages do (French, for example). To give you an example for how it might be useful, consider the question, “Don’t you love me?” An answer of “yes” in English could mean “Yes, I do love you”, or it could mean “Yes, I don’t love you”. Quite a predicament! In languages like French and Kamakawi, there’s a special affirmative answer to negative polarity questions like this which always means “yes” (or the most positive answer), and then “no” means the negative one. That’s how undetermined la is used.

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3 Responses to “La”

  1. Ka kavaka Sylvia Sotomayor ti:

    German has one, too.

  2. Ka kavaka Amanda ti:

    I’ve been wondering for some time how to pronounce long strings of vowels, especially at word borders. I assume I can’t insert glottal stops since the glottal stop is a consonant (am I wrong about this?) This one is particularly challenging with the “tivale ei ie” string. How do you distinguish “…e ei ie”?

  3. Ka kavaka David J. Peterson ti:

    I am sick and tired of your legitimate comments (and mine too, for that matter!) getting marked as spam. I’m officially deactivating Hashcash.

    @Sylvia: Really? I would’ve thought I would’ve learned that. What is it?

    @Amanda: Glottal stops can be inserted at the beginning of a word without trouble (word-initially, glottal stop is realized as [h], recall), but for the most part, the vowels are just pronounced separately. The same is true of Spanish, for example. In the proper pronunciation of the city I live in, “Santa Ana”, there’s no space between the two [a]’s, the quality and duration of each [a] is the same, and there’s no glottal stop at the beginning of “Ana”. As in Spanish, though, vowels have a certain peak in intensity that characterizes the vowel. With consecutive vowels, two distinct peaks can be heard (consider Spanish “creer”, for example). If it’ll help, I’ll put up a recording of one or two of these sentences in the days to come.

    Oh, but I should mention that the very common sequence “ei ie” often comes out as [ei:e], with no distinct peak for either [i].

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