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Signs for Hawaiʻi highways and streets to be updated with ʻokina and kahakō

Flickr - Ken Lund

You may notice some upcoming changes to signs for Hawaiʻi highways and streets.

The state Department of Transportation said it is updating, or installing, signs to include Hawaiian diacritical markings such as the ʻokina and kahakō.

The new policy is effective immediately and will start with signs on interstate routes H-1 and H-201. The first signs to be updated are ʻAiea, ʻEwa, Waiʻanae, Kāneʻohe, Wahiawā and Hālawa.

“Using kahakō and ʻokina in Hawaiian words and place names on our signs is a small action to support, promote, and revitalize ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi," DOT Deputy Director Ed Sniffen said.

The department said it’s in the process of preparing and adopting a master list of all street names and destinations on the state highways system. The public will be welcome to provide comments on the spellings of Hawaiian words.

On Oʻahu, the Honolulu Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts also started a program to correct street signs that are spelled incorrectly, or misuse the ʻokina and kahakō. The initiative began in February to recognize Mahina ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, or Hawaiian Language Month.

“So much of our history is held in our place names, so it is important for us to assure those names are respected and utilized correctly,” said MOCA Executive Director Makanani Salā.

"While ʻokina (glottal stop) and kahakō (macron) are newer additions to written Hawaiian language, they have become integral pieces of our modern orthography," the office said in a statement.

Does your street have a misspelled sign? Click here to submit a correction on Oʻahu.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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