Traditional Hawaiian Base-4 Grouping System
This 15 minute video covers the traditional Hawaiian base-4 number system used to group objects, much in the same way that English uses "a dozen" or "four score". These are the beautiful numbers 4, 40, 400, 4000, 40,000, and 400,000. What a pattern!
One thing I love about teaching is that I often learn something new just by virtue of re-explaining something over and over. It was in this video - and thus thanks to all of you! - that I discovered that these six number names (kāuna, kaʻau, lau, mano, kini, and lehulehu) are used to group things, not necessarily to just count. I was always taught that these were "traditional counting numbers" and not of much use today. Furthermore, the Pukui-Elbert Dictionary uses the term "formulistic number" to describe these numbers; but I have no clue what that term really means in this context. Does any normal student? If any of you know, please add a comment or send me an email or post in the forums! Mahalo!
Unfortunately, these grouping terms are rarely used in Hawaiian language these days, except perhaps in humorous conversation. Nevertheless, perhaps they will come back into use as we rediscover how to re-incorporate kuanaʻike Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian world-view and Hawaiian thinking processes) back into the language over the next decade or so. This is one of my main goals and I hope that continuing to teach Hawaiian over the next few years will help me formulate my thinking on this topic.
We need to start building sentences in our minds with a Hawaiian mindset, not an English-language-based mindset as is often the case in Hawaiian language classrooms of today (including, in many cases, my own!). I believe that this is one of the main characteristics that distinguishes the Hawaiian of today from that of the kūpuna elders and ancestors of years past. Now that grammar, vocabulary, and spelling have been essentially standardized for classroom use, the time has come for us to add back the "secret sauce" into the language: the kuanaʻike Hawaiʻi.
Numbers, Numbers Everywhere!
Returning to the topic of this video, I hope you enjoy it and learn something new! After watching the video myself after recording it, I realize that I made a mistake in my counting of 4 x 8 and said it was "24", which of course it is not! ahahaha! I had the numbers 3 and 8 stuck in my head for some reason - thank goodness I'm not a maths teacher! So "24 canoes" should be "6 kāuna waʻa", not "8 kāuna waʻa" which would be 32 of course!
Please find the links to the video at the bottom of this article.
Next up in the numbers series will be 0504V Numbers Zero and One, and Quantity vs. Question
Please be patient while the video begins to load; it may take up to 30 seconds or so depending on your connection speed.
aloha nō nā kūpuna
- Numbering based on the number 4
- 4 and 40 as exact numbers
- 400, 40,000, 400,000 as "fuzzy" numbers
- Lehu / Lehulehu
Video Links for Desktop and Mobile
Streaming or Downloading Videos
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