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! When I watched the video myself after recording it, I realized 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 – must have been an overload of multi-tasking while making the video! So “24 canoes” should be “6 kāuna waʻa”, not “8 kāuna waʻa” which would be 32 of course!
So please find the link to the video at the bottom of this article, and forgive the math.
Next up in the numbers series will be 0504V Numbers Zero and One, and Quantity vs. Question in which you will learn about how the numbers ʻekahi and hoʻokahi work, among other things.
The main index for this section, should you wish to go back, is at the 0500 Series Index
- Numbering based on the number 4
- 4 and 40 as exact numbers
- 400, 40,000, 400,000 as “fuzzy” numbers
- Lehu / Lehulehu
Length: 15 minutes
Video Stream for Desktop and Mobile
- Please log in to activate the video player.
Streaming or Downloading Videos
All videos are now streamed from our providerʻs servers directly to your device, and the correct version for your device will automatically be selected. This means that this video should play on all Macs, Windows PCs, iPads, iPhones, and most Android or similar devices. Most up-to-date web browsers on both desktops and mobile devices should be able to play the files. The only requirement is that you be connected to the internet in order to view the videos.
Note that you may have to wait up to 30 seconds on a medium speed connection for the video to load enough to play.
If you wish to download any of the videos for offline use, please use our Contact Us Form to request download links.