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Hawaiian HTML Difficulties

By the way, I've been having a hard time deciding what to do about representing some Hawaiian words in HTML. Read on for details.

The ‘Okina:

The word "Hawaii" itself is properly pronounced with a glottal stop between the last two vowels, which is represented in Hawaiian by the ‘okina symbol, which is not available in HTML. I've been inconsistent in my use of this symbol here, but it's considered a consonent in Hawaiian, a language that has precious few letters with which to convey pronounciation, so I'm going to try to use it properly. Here: Hawai‘i. That's better.

In some of my posts I have been using the foot character (') as a placeholder for the ‘okina, but I've noticed that Hawaiian language sites more commonly use the left single-quote (‘). Neither of these is correct, however. The ‘okina is supposed to look like an apostrophe rotated 180 degrees.

The Macron:

Called a kahako (with a macron over the o) or a mekona in Hawaiian, the macron is placed over a vowel to indicate the lengthening of that vowel. Some people drop this altoghter in HTML, and some use the carat character (^) over or type a tilde (~) after the lengthened vowel. Not exactly a great set of solutions, are they? In most cases I don't know where the macrons go anyway, so I won't kick myself too hard. If I do happen to know one I'll probably use a carat or something like that.

Incidently, both the okina and the macron are available in Unicode. Songdog.net is currently presented in an ISO-8859-1 encoding, but if I switched to Unicode other things would become possible. I just don't know how well various browsers would behave. Also, some sites, including this one, which provides the Unicode values for Hawaiian letters, also encourage the use of alternate fonts and plug-ins. It works, if your readers are willing to bother, but man, oh man, is it a pain to have to do this. I consider myself very fortunate to be working in the language towards which the web is biased, and I wish that there wasn't so much baggage preventing us from making a clean break and fixing things.

That said, I should probably clean up my use of foot (') and inch (") characters for single- and double-quotes, find myself an ellpisis entity, follow the rules and proper encodings of em- and en-dashes, and so forth. Sigh… (Hey! That's one problem solved!)

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