How do you know who someone is talking about in Pehea 'o ia?
How do you know who someone is talking about when they ask "Pehea 'o ia", if it means both "How is she?" and "How is he?" Is the only way to tell the difference context clues?
Let me answer by asking you a similar question that may help. If I ask, in English, "How is he," how do you know which "he" I'm talking about? Is there one guy standing near us that I must be referring to? Have we been talking about a particular guy that I must be referring to? If there are more than one man that I might be referring to, wouldn't it be confusing if I just asked, "he"?
Usually context makes it clear who we are actually talking about. And if somehow I have not made it clear and you're not sure who it could be, you might have to ask me to clarify. It's no different in Hawaiian. The pronoun "ia" could refer to a number of different people and I probably shouldn't use it unless we have already established a context of who I will be referring to when I say "ia".
The one small difference is that when I say, "he" in English, I might only be referring to any male on the planet and when I say, "she", I might only be referring to any female on the planet. That's still a lot of people to narrow down. So I don't think it's any more confusing, really, to just include all the "he" and "she" into one group.
I suppose in English, if I have been talking about a heterosexual married couple I have the nice benefit that I can distinguish between them with just "he" and "she". Whereas in Hawaiian, I might have to be more specific to indicate which one I'm talking about. That seems like a rare situation and not that difficult to deal with. In both Hawaiian and English I shouldn't be using a third person pronoun unless you already know who I'm referring to. It really works about the same in both languages and the lack of separate "he" and "she" isn't really an issue.
Correct, you have to rely on context. Hawaiian doesn’t have different masculine and feminine pronouns.