Language and Spelling

In the early twentieth century, written language was introduced to the Kapingamarangi. Since that time their method of spelling has had a few changes. One of the changes was done to ease the process of creating and learning the written language of the Kapingamarangi. Later, another system was imposed that was thought to work better with the learning of the English language. Depending on an individual's age and period of learning, their spelling varies. Pronunciation has remained fairly constant.


There are some spelling inconsistencies throughout this document. Even the spelling of the waka siu, the canoe we were building, has been a point of uncertainty. I have seen it spelled waka diu and waka tiu. The meaning of the canoe name has been translated "wet canoe", "dipped canoe" and "strait canoe" (canoe that goes strait or goes away). The first of these definitions can be found in both Buck, 1950 and Emory, 1965. The dipped canoe is an interpretation found in Lieber, 1994. The "strait canoe" is the only definition that is uniformly accepted by the Kapingamarangi. Kalio Dekipa, co-author of Kapingamarangi Lexicon, explains that there is no need to use the term "wet" in the context of a canoe. If you're fishing, your are always wet and therefore no one would ever name a canoe a "wet canoe." This seems a good explanation and is supported by the general population. Other discrepancies may also be encountered.