Jul 16, 2008

A cross-comparison of Hawaiian and "Standard" North Central American Accents

For those of you not so familiar with American accents, the one that is considered to be the most "neutral" (i.e. devoid of typical regional characteristics) is in the northern part of the Midwestern US, that is, around Iowa, Nebraska, and the western part of Illinois. This is what many people refer to as the "broadcaster's accent", as many people in the national television reporting industry try to model their speech on this accent. Of course, you have your Southern accents, your Northeastern City accents (think Boston and New York), New England, the Northern Cities (think Chicago), the Western, and the stereotypical Southern Californian (front all those back vowels, dyuuude) accent.

(For the record, I have a mostly Southern Californian accent - my back vowels are indeed fronted - but not when I'm speaking a foreign language.)

Anyhow, I just wanted to focus your attention to a regional accent that may be the most distinctive: Hawaiian. Its basis is the English-based Hawaiian Pidgin, which is a misnomer now since it's considered a creole rather than a pidgin. Other lexical influences came from the numerous ethnic groups who were hired to work on the sugar and pineapple plantations: Hawaiians (of course), Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipinos, Portuguese, and many others.

So, here's a clip from the late Rap Reiplinger, a famous comedian from Hawaii, in one of his most well-known sketches, "Room Service". In this sketch, he plays both a "Mainlander" (i.e. from the 48 contiguous states) tourist and a Hawaiian room service receptionist (Mr. Reiplinger was known for his female impersonations). The differences between the two regional varieties are striking.

Be sure to pay attention to the following characteristics that have been directly taken from Hawaiian Pidgin:

- No used as a prohibition particle, rather than don't: (No go so freakin' fast; No get uptight, sir)

- Get as both a verb of possession (You get a pen?) as well as a verb meaning 'to attain s.t.'

- 'Em instead of it as an indefinite third person pronoun (I get'em, I get'em already)

- /th/ pronounced as [t] (ting for 'thing') or [d] (dat for 'that')

- Usually little tense marking; instead aspect marking is the norm, e.g. I get'em already (vs. I got them [already])

- Progressive aspect with no 'to be' verb, e.g. This buggah giving me heat!

- "Kine" (We get two kine): this is almost like a classifier or indefinite pronoun, except that this can also appear with the article da (< 'the'), i.e. da kine (this is probably the most stereotypically Hawaiian lexical item...)

I am by no means a pidgin expert (and there still are numerous pidgins and creoles all around the world - but many of them are disappearing quickly), but if you ever go to Hawaii, I would like you to at least gain an appreciation for this particular tongue. It's not like anything you've heard before.

P.S. And I think that chooi/choey comes from [注意], but used in this context as a more general device to solicit attention.


Ed said...

현우씨랑 혜영씨랑,

Just reflecting on the recent lessons on the 사투리 on Koreanclass101.com, do you think the social perceptions of the Hawaiian accent (rather blunt, filled with "colorful" language) would be an appropriate analogue to the perceptions of 경산 사투리 (well, Keith brought up the comparisons of 경산 사투리 with the Southern US and New York accents), or 제주도 사투리, or...?

Hyeyoung (혜영) said...

haha- 경산 사투리 must be 경상도 사투리 i guess. (i actually didnt listen to koreanclass101.com lesson on the 사투리). 경상도 사투리 is more coloful and stronger than 서울말.
acutally i use 경상도 사투리. because i'm from the southern part of korea. :D
someday, i'll record my 사투리 :D

Hyunwoo Sun said...

Ed, yes, if I were to pick one type of 사투리 in the Korean language to call "the most colorful" it would definitely be 경상도 사투리 : )

혜영아, 우리 사투리 레슨 진짜 웃겼어... 한번 들어 봐 ㅎㅎ