Isle Scholar Celebrates Birthday With New Work
By MARY COOKE
Mary Kawena Pukui, dean of Hawaiian scholars, has two reasons to celebrate today.
It’s her 69th birthday, and the English-Hawaiian Dictionary, part of a project for which she started the research 30 years ago, is just out.
It is a companion volume of the Hawaiian-English Dictionary published in 1957. On both works her collaborator was Dr. Samuel H. Elbert of the University of Hawaii who studied the language with her. Both were published by the University Press.
“IT IS such a relief,” Kawena began in the light, unhurried conversational tones of a Hawaiian tutu, “to have the dictionaries finished.”
But her dark eyes sparkled with the intensity of the scholar as she added, “now I can go ahead with the Kamakau.”
She explained that some years ago she translated the writings on Hawaiian religion, arts and crafts by the early Hawaiian author, Samuel Kamakau. Now she is reviewing the work for publication with Dorothy Barrere of the Bishop Museum.
“AND THERE are lots of other things I want to do, too,” she said with characteristic forward-looking zeal.
Kawena is modest about looking backward. But the record shows 40 years of persistent, scholarly accomplishment as researcher, translator, compiler and writer of authentic Hawaiiana.
Thirty-seven titles in Bishop Museum listings covering ethnology, sociology, natural history and linguistics are the work of Mary Pukui alone or in collaboration with scientists and other writers.
HER MOTIVATION is the urgency she feels to research and record all possible knowledge of the indigenous culture of Hawaii.
When she began writing and translating years ago she started a card file of Hawaiian words “for whoever would do a new Hawaiian dictionary… I never thought I was going to be the one to do it,” she said.
Her source material was Hawaiian newspapers and magazines, the Hawaiian Bible, catechisms and religious writings of all denominations, legends, folk lore, chants and writings of early native scholars.
Legal terms and land law terms were translated, and from the modern Hawaiian vocabulary, such contemporary words as “air raid” and “blackout” were also included.
KAWENA, with Eleanor Williamson of the Bishop Museum, also traveled remote areas of the Islands with a tape recorder to garner all she could from living memories about pronunciation and meanings of words.
She says the Hawaiian language frequently is complicated by multiple meanings.
Advertiser Photo by Charles Okamura
MARY KAWENA PUKUI Continue reading