Hawaiian Words

Author : Kendall Bingham binghamkl@umkc.edu

Hawaiian words can be intimidating to attempt to pronounce. Words like humuhumunukunukuapua'a look like someone may have fallen asleep on the keyboard. The language is actually very simple and only contains 12 characters; 5 vowels and 7 consonants. This assignment has the students taking a string of a Hawaiian word and outputting the phonetic version.

This project was assigned to CS101 students within the first 6 weeks of their semester. It would be a fairly easy set of rules to change and adapt into fictional languages. The program they were asked to write would continually prompt the user for a Hawaiian word. It would warn the user if the word contained any invalid symbols or characters. If the word was valid, then it would output the phonetic pronunciation for the word. The phonetic output would break up the syllables with a – after each vowel sound. They would then query the user if they desired to continue.

Some sounds are pronounced differently depending on their position. For instance a w is pronounced as a v sound if it is after an i or an e, but is a w sound elsewhere. So they weren’t just looking at the current character, but also had to look to see what the previous character if there was one. The rest of the consonants (p, k, h, l, m, n) are pronounced the same as their English counterparts.

The vowels (a, e, i, o, u) have a given sound when by itself, but when grouped they can have different sounds. i has a ee sound like in bee, and u has on oo sound like mood. However, and iu together sounds like ew, while ui sounds like ooey in gooey. This required the student to look at the next character and group them if they had a combined sound.

Student Skills

This was a CS101 program given less than halfway through semester in Python

  • String manipulation. Iterating over strings as well as checking the character in front and behind for certain instances
  • Loops
Hawaii Image from pexels.com

Phonetic Guide

p, k, h, l, m, nPronounced like the English versions.
w - start of wordEither pronounced as a w or a v. We will pronounce it as a w
w - after the letter 'a'Either pronounced as a w or a v. We will pronounce it as a w
w - after 'i' or 'e'Pronounced as a v sound
w - after 'u' or 'o'Sounds like w
asounds like ah. eg. Austin - ah-stin
esounds like eh. eg. egg - eh-gg
isounds like ee. eg. bee
osounds like oh. eg. obey - oh bay
usounds like oo. eg. mood - m oo d
Vowel Groups
aisounds like eye. eg. Ice
aesounds like eye. eg. Ice
aosounds like ow. eg. How
ausounds like ow. eg. How
eisounds like ay. eg. Hay
eusounds like eh-oh
iusounds like ew. eg. Chew
oisounds like oy. eg. Soy
ousounds like ow. eg. How
uisounds like ooey. eg Gooey
Example Words and correct output
WordCorrect Output
E komo maiEh koh-moh meye

Assignment File

File DescriptionLink
Student Assignment .docx

Meta Data

Summary Students develop a program to produce the phonetic for a Hawaiian word.
Topics String iteration and manipulation, loops, functions.
Audience Beginning CS1 students with exposure to strings and loops.

This is an easy to medium difficulty level, about the difficulty of converting Roman Numerals to decimal.

  • Lots of practice with string manipulation.
  • Fun to daydream about hawaii while tackling this problem. Students like comparing their results to some online dictionaries of the words
  • Part of the assignment was to validate they only entered valid characters and combinations of characters. Giving them opportunity to divide and conquer with functions.
  • Students want to use replace function. There are a couple of exceptions where replace would not work, however it is best to simply ban the use of a replace method and require them to iterate on the strings
  • String manipulation
  • Loops
  • Can be easy to find other languages to use, not just hawaiian. Spring 2018 I used it with Dothroki from "Game of Thrones"
  • Can be used with the IPA phonetic guide
  • Its been suggested to use this with sound files of individual sounds and have the program stitch sound files together.