Hawaiian, along with English, is the official language of Hawaii, yet only a small percentage in the United States of Americ speak Hawaiian, so small in fact, that in recent years extra initiatives have been taken to increase the awareness for the official language. However, Hawaii is home to an even rarer language, as a research team in collaboration with the Hawai’i Mānoa University Recently recently discovered.
A research group in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai’i recently announced that they discovered the Hawai’i Sign Language (HSL). The discovery of this language makes it the second known sign language in the United States of America, the other sign language being the widely used American Sign Language (ASL) among the deaf community in the United States of America.
With a new language discovery, one of the hardest challenges is to try discover the history of the language and where it originated from. However, the research team believe that this language was used for the first time around the late 19th century. The claim of the researchers is a plausible one given that the year 1914 saw the first opening of a deaf school in Hawaii, using the HSL.
Research for this new discovery began back in 2010, when Linda Lambrecht, together with her former student, Barbara Earth, approached the UH Mānoa’s Department of Linguistics, for permission and advice to begin their research. With permission granted, the research team were able to locate 21 deaf individuals spread across the islands.
The Hawaiians have faced challenges on the linguistic front and continue to do so, with their official language not being widely used across the state. They have an even bigger hill to climb by preserving their new sign language. Perseverance is one thing which Hawaiians do not lack however, being able to retain their own unique identity, despite past historical events.
With the discovery of the language, things can only look positive from now on, with the UH Mānoa’s Department of Linguistics having knowledge of this language, one can only expect more information to come out of this new finding.
Written by Nigel Marneef, trainee at TermCoord