The Hawaiian copula verbs he, 'o, and i, as used in the publications of native writers of Hawaiian: A study of Hawaiian language and literature
Most descriptions of Hawaiian grammar have failed to identify and analyze the Hawaiian copula verbs he, 'o, and i. For more than 150 years, the Hawaiian word he has been misanalyzed and mistaught as a determiner, an indefinite article. The Hawaiian word 'o which is a copula verb has been confused with homonyms of a different major category. The Hawaiian word i which is an inchoative copula verb has also been confused with homonyms of a different nature. The forms he and 'o are in complementary distribution with one another in predicate noun phrases. The copula 'o does not occur outside of predicate noun phrases, but he may occur also with predicate number phrases and predicate verb phrases. The copula i has a syntactic distribution which is similar to that of he in predicate noun phrases and predicate number phrases, but i is used only when there is an inchoative meaning. He can occur in some of the environments where i does.
The main syntactic evidence that he is a copula verb rather than a determiner includes the following points: (1) determiners follow the copula verb 'o, but he does not; (2) determiners follow prepositions, but he does not; (3) determiners follow the conjunction ame, but he does not; (4) he, like other verbs, follows the conjunction a, but determiners do not; (5) he is followed by verbs in verbal predicates, hut determiners are not.
The faulty analyses of he, 'o, and i which have been published and widely accepted have led to statements of exceptional syntactic characteristics of these words, resulting in unwieldy and unintuitive grammar descriptions which have continued to mislead Hawaiian language students.