Hawai’ian okina a diacritic

Today’s Teen Jeopardy’s final question/answer was (paraphrasing)

> This is the only [US] state that, when written correctly, has a diacritical mark [_see below_]

After going through my inventory of diacritics and possible parts of state names other than the proper name part (as in _The State of_ California, or something like that), I came to the conclusion that it must be Hawai’i. And indeed this is the response Alex was waiting for.

It’s really too bad, because as far as I can tell, the [‘okina](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okina) should be, and usually is, considered a separate character (a “letter”), expressing the glottal stop. It is not a diacritical mark, which intuitively is supposed to alter the pronunciation of a letter, not indicate a separate sound. Of course there are many cases where an a diacritic in fact does something rather more (e.g., the cedilla in several Turkic languages). And IIRC there are orthographies in which a true diacritic is used to mark glottal stops. But the ‘okina is not (in) one of them.

[edit: Some websites report the exact final Jeopardy answer as: “It’s the only state name that when spelled officially contains a diacritical mark.”]

5 Comments so far

  1. Catherine Norton on February 14th, 2008

    Isn’t it true that the cross on the English “tee” and the “i” dots are diacritical marks?

  2. Brent on June 26th, 2008

    Really interesting site Russell. Thank you.

    In the role of web designer, it’s important for me to help my client use and understanding how to correctly implement the okina in their wordpress sites. I’ve mashed up a couple plugins to help insert the okina and kahako / macron. However, we’re still plagued with misunderstanding and funky characters.

    Many of us are doing our best to preserve these details of the Hawaiian language on the web. See wehewehe dot org and as well as the more widely used translation dictionaries.

    Kualono, the College of Hawaiian Language olelo.hawaii dot edu has been working this mission for years.

    So my question to you is which html character reference do you have the best luck with for the okina?

    (& # 8216 ;)


    ʻ (& # 6 9 9 ;)

    Sorry for spelling it out twice. I wasn’t sure how my comments would be rewritten by wordpress.

    I’m using lucida sans unicode for the standard font. Any insight here would be helpful too.

    Also, I’ve been told that the okina in the word Hawaiian isn’t necessary since it’s not a “Hawaiian” word.

    I created a reference on my site to document what I’ve been using on the site.

    a hui hou

  3. Russell on June 27th, 2008

    Brent: wow, thanks for the info.

    In certain sizes, the second character turns into something strange (sort of like a Japanese open-quote bracket); the first one works fine, though. Not sure what happens with different fonts.

    Interesting about “Hawaiian” not needing an okina – but still include it for “Hawai’i” because that word is entirely native?

  4. John on August 11th, 2008

    It’s interesting that the show just aired tonight (August 11, 2008) here in Savannah. I guess it was a re-run!?

  5. Get Your Ex Back on December 13th, 2010

    http://robertshirey.blogspot.com/2010/12/how-to-get-back-with-your-ex.html Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time :-)