|Native to||United States|
|Region||Oklahoma and the Qualla Boundary, North Carolina|
|Ethnicity||140,000 Cherokee people|
|10,400, may be up to 16,000  (2010)|
|Cherokee syllabary, Latin|
Original distribution of the Cherokee language
Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ Tsalagi Gawonihisdi) is the Iroquoian language spoken by the Cherokee people. It is the only Southern Iroquoian language that remains spoken. Cherokee is a polysynthetic language and uses a unique syllabary writing system.
- 1 North American etymology
- 2 Modern dialects
- 3 Phonology
- 4 Grammar
- 5 Writing system
- 6 Books in Cherokee
- 7 Word creation
- 8 Language drift
- 9 Computer and smartphone usage
- 10 Cherokee language in popular culture
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
North American etymology
- "It first appears as Chalaque in the Portuguese narrative of De Soto's expedition, published originally in 1557, while we find Cheraqui in a French document of 1699, and Cherokee as an English form as early, at least, as 1708. The name has thus an authentic [sic] history of 360 years."
Cherokee is also taught as a second-language in Northwest Georgia and Northeastern Oklahoma.
Students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma did especially well in competition in 2012 at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History's Annual Oklahoma Native American Language Fair.
Cherokee has three major dialects. The Lower dialect became extinct around 1900. The Middle or Kituhwa dialect is spoken by the Eastern band on the Qualla Boundary. The Overhill or Western dialect is spoken in Oklahoma and by the Snowbird Community in North Carolina. The Overhill dialect has an estimated 9000 speakers. The Lower dialect spoken by the inhabitants of the Lower Towns in the vicinity of the South Carolina–Georgia border had r as the liquid consonant in its inventory, while both the contemporary Kituhwa or Ani-kituwah dialect spoken in North Carolina and the Overhill dialects contain l. Only Oklahoma Cherokee developed tone. Both the Lower dialect and the Kituhwa dialect have a "ts" sound in place of the "tl" sound of the Overhill dialect. The English word "No" is ᎥᏝ (ə̃tˤɑ or [ə̃tl̥á]) in the Overhill dialect, but ᎥᏣ (ə̃sɑ) in both the Lower and Kituhwa dialects.
Cherokee only has one labial consonant, m–which is relatively new to the language. The Lower dialect lacked this sound, having "w" in its place. The language thus lacks p and b. In the case of p, qw is often substituted (as in the name of Cherokee Wikipedia, Wiɣiqwejdiʃ).
As with many Iroquoian languages, the consonant inventory is very simple. The consonants for North Carolina Cherokee are given in the table below. The consonants of all Iroquoian languages pattern so that they may be grouped as (oral) obstruents, sibilants, laryngeals, and resonants (Lounsbury 1978:337). Obstruents are non-distinctively aspirated when they precede h. There is some variation in how orthographies represent these allophones. The orthography used in the table represents the aspirated allophones as th, kh, and tsh. Another common orthography represents the unaspirated allophones as d, ɣ, and dz and the aspirated allophones as t, k, and s (Scancarelli 2005:359–62). The unaspirated plosives and affricate are optionally voiced intervocally. In other dialects, the affricate is a palatal (like ch in "church"), and a lateral affricate (like tl in "atlas") may also be present.
|Approximant||l||j (y)||ɰ (w)|
There are six short vowels and six long vowels in the Cherokee inventory. As with all Iroquoian languages, this includes a nasalized vowel (Lounsbury 1978:337). In the case of Cherokee, the nasalized vowel is a schwa, which most orthographies represent as v and is pronounced [ɜ] as "u" in unstressed "but"; since it is nasal, it sounds rather like French un. Other vowels, when ending a word, are often nasalized. Vowels can be short or long.
|Close||i iː||u uː|
|Mid||e eː||ə̃ ə̃ː||o oː|
Cherokee has only one diphthong native to the language:
- ai /ai/
Another exception to the phonology above is the modern Oklahoma use of the loanword "automobile", with the /ɔ/ sound and /b/ sound of English.
Oklahoma Cherokee is a pitch accent language with six tones, two of which are level (low, high) and the other four of which are contour (rising, falling, highfall, lowfall). While the tonal system is undergoing a gradual simplification in many areas, it remains important in meaning and is still held strongly by many, especially older, speakers. Tone is poorly documented in North Carolina Cherokee. The syllabary, moreover, does not display tone, and real meaning discrepancies[clarification needed] are rare within the native-language Cherokee-speaking community. The same goes for transliterated Cherokee ("osiyo", "dohitsu", etc.), which is rarely written with any tone markers, except in dictionaries. Native speakers can tell the difference between written tone-distinguished words by context.
The high and low tones can appear on both long and short vowels in Cherokee, and remain at the same pitch throughout the duration of the vowel sound. Contour tones in Cherokee appear only in underlying long vowels. At the ends of words in colloquial speech, there is a tendency to drop off a long vowel into a short vowel; this results in the highfall tone being produced as a high tone in faster speech. 
Highfall has a unique grammatical usage, primarily appearing with adjectives and adverbials along with most nouns derived from verbs. It only appears in verbs subordinate to another element of the sentence. When a highfall appears on a verb it changes the verbs' role in the sentence, typically to one of four main categories: agentive derivation, modal, object derivation, or subordination.
Cherokee, like many Native American languages, is polysynthetic, meaning that many morphemes may be linked together to form a single word, which may be of great length. Cherokee verbs, the most important word type, must contain as a minimum a pronominal prefix, a verb root, an aspect suffix, and a modal suffix. For example, the verb form ge:ga, "I am going," has each of these elements:
Verb form ge:ga g- e: -g -a PRONOMINAL PREFIX VERB ROOT "to go" ASPECT SUFFIX MODAL SUFFIX
The pronominal prefix is g-, which indicates first person singular. The verb root is -e, "to go." The aspect suffix that this verb employs for the present-tense stem is -g-. The present-tense modal suffix for regular verbs in Cherokee is -a
The following is a conjugation in the present tense of the verb to go. Please note that there is no distinction between dual and plural in the 3rd person.
Full conjugation of Root Verb-e- going Singular Dual incl. Dual excl. Plural incl. Plural excl. 1st ᎨᎦ gega – I'm going ᎢᏁᎦ inega – we're going (you + I) ᎣᏍᏕᎦ osdega – we two are going (not you) ᎢᏕᎦ idega – we're all going (3+, including you) ᎣᏤᎦ otsega – we're all going (3+, not you) 2nd ᎮᎦ hega – you're going ᏍᏕᎦ sdega – you two are going ᎢᏤᎦ itsega – you're all going 3rd ᎡᎦ ega – she/he/it's going ᎠᏁᎦ anega – they are going
The translation uses the present progressive ("at this time I am going"). Cherokee differentiates between progressive ("I am going") and habitual ("I go") more than English does.
The forms ᎨᎪᎢ, ᎮᎪᎢ, ᎡᎪᎢ gegoi, hegoi, egoi represent "I often/usually go", "you often/usually go", and "she/he/it often/usually goes", respectively.
Verbs can also have prepronominal prefixes, reflexive prefixes, and derivative suffixes. Given all possible combinations of affixes, each regular verb can have 21,262 inflected forms.
Cherokee does not make gender distinctions. For example, ᎦᏬᏂᎭ gawoniha can mean either "she is speaking" or "he is speaking."
Pronouns and pronominal prefixes
Like many Native American languages, Cherokee has many pronominal prefixes. But there are two separate words which function as pronouns: aya "I, me" and nihi "you".
|Number||Set I||Set II|
|Singular||ji-, g-||agi-, agw-|
|Dual inclusive||ini-, in-||gini-, gin-|
|Dual exclusive||osdi-, osd-||ogini-, ogin-|
|Plural inclusive||idi-, id-||igi-, ig-|
|Plural exclusive||oji-, oj-||ogi-, og-|
Shape classifiers in verbs
Some Cherokee verbs require special classifiers which denote a physical property of the direct object. Only around 20 common verbs require one of these classifiers (such as the equivalents of "pick up", "put down", "remove", "wash", "hide", "eat", "drag", "have", "hold", "put in water", "put in fire", "hang up", "be placed", "pull along"). The classifiers can be grouped into five categories:
2. Flexible (most common)
3. Long (narrow, not flexible)
4. Indefinite (solid, heavy relative to size)
5. Liquid (or container of)
|Live||ᎯᎧᏏ hikasi||Hand him (something living)|
|Flexible||ᎯᏅᏏ hinvsi||Hand him (something like clothes, rope)|
|Long, Indefinite||ᎯᏗᏏ hidisi||Hand him (something like a broom, pencil)|
|Indefinite||ᎯᎥᏏ hivsi||Hand him (something like food, book)|
|Liquid||ᎯᏁᎥᏏ hinevsi||Hand him (something like water)|
There have been reports that the youngest speakers of Cherokee are using only the Indefinite forms, suggesting a decline in the system of shape classification.
Simple declarative sentences usually have a subject-object-verb word order. Negative sentences have a different word order. Adjectives come before nouns, as in English. Demonstratives, such as ᎾᏍᎩ nasgi ("that") or ᎯᎠ hia ("this"), come at the beginning of noun phrases. Relative clauses follow noun phrases. Adverbs precede the verbs that they are modifying. For example, "she's speaking loudly" is ᎠᏍᏓᏯ ᎦᏬᏂᎭ asdaya gawoniha (literally, "loud she's-speaking").
A Cherokee sentence may not have a verb as when two noun phrases form a sentence. In such a case, word order is flexible. For example, Ꮎ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ ᎠᎩᏙᏓ na asgaya agidoda ("that man is my father"). A noun phrase might be followed by an adjective, such as in ᎠᎩᏙᏓ ᎤᏔᎾ agidoga utana ("my father is big").
Cherokee is written in an 85-character syllabary invented by Sequoyah (also known as Guest or George Gist). Many of the letters resemble the Latin letters they derive from, but have completely different sound values; Sequoyah had seen English, Hebrew, and Greek writing but did not know how to read them.
Books in Cherokee
- Awi Uniyvsdi Kanohelvdi ᎠᏫ ᎤᏂᏴᏍᏗ ᎧᏃᎮᎸᏗ: The Park Hill Tales. (2006) Sixkiller, Dennis, ed.
- Baptism: The Mode
- Cherokee Almanac (1860)
- "Christmas in those Days"
- Cherokee Driver's Manuel
- Cherokee Elementary Arithmetic (1870)
- "The Cherokee People Today"
- Cherokee Psalms: A Collection of Hymns in the Cherokee Language (1991). Sharpe, J. Ed., ed. and Daniel Scott, trans. ISBN 978-0-935741-16-2
- Cherokee Spelling Book (1924). J. D. Wofford
- Cherokee Stories. (1966) Spade & Walker
- Cherokee Vision of Elohi (1981 and 1997). Meredith, Howard, Virginia Sobral, and Wesley Proctor. ISBN 978-0-9660164-0-6
- The Four Gospels and Selected Psalms in Cherokee: A Companion to the Syllabary New Testament (2004). Holmes, Ruth Bradley. ISBN 978-0-8061-3628-8.
- Na Tsoi Yona Ꮎ ᏦᎢ ᏲᎾ: The Three Bears. (2007) Keeter, Ray D. and Wynema Smith. ISBN 978-0-9777339-0-3
- Na Usdi Gigage Agisi Tsitaga Ꮎ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎩᎦᎨ ᎠᎩᏏ: The Little Red Hen. (2007) Smith, Wynema and Ray D. Keeter. ISBN 978-0-9777339-1-0.
Due to the polysynthetic nature of the Cherokee language, new and descriptive words in Cherokee are easily constructed to reflect or express modern concepts. Some good examples are ᏗᏘᏲᎯᎯ (ditiyohihi) which means "he argues repeatedly and on purpose with a purpose." This is the Cherokee word for "attorney." Another example is ᏗᏓᏂᏱᏍᎩ (didaniyisgi) which means "the final catcher" or "he catches them finally and conclusively." This is the Cherokee word for "policeman."
Many words, however, have been adopted from the English language – for example, gasoline, which in Cherokee is ᎦᏐᎵᏁ (gasoline). Many other words were adopted from the languages of tribes who settled in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. One interesting and humorous example is the name of Nowata, Oklahoma. The word nowata is a Delaware word for "welcome" (more precisely the Delaware word is nuwita which can mean "welcome" or "friend" in the Delaware language). The white settlers of the area used the name "nowata" for the township, and local Cherokees, being unaware the word had its origins in the Delaware language, called the town ᎠᎹᏗᎧᏂᎬᎾᎬᎾ (Amadikanigvnagvna) which means "the water is all gone gone from here" – i.e. "no water."
Other examples of adopted words are ᎧᏫ (kawi) for "coffee" and ᏩᏥ (watsi) for "watch" (which led to ᎤᏔᎾ ᏩᏥ (utana watsi) or "big watch" for clock).
Meaning expansion can be illustrated by the words for "warm" and "cold". They also mean "south" and "north" by an obvious extension. Around the time of the American Civil War, they were further extended to US party labels, Democratic and Republican, respectively.
|Drifted Otali Sequoyah
|Otali Syllable||Sequoyah Syllabary Index||Sequoyah Syllabary Chart||Sequoyah Syllable|
There are two main dialects of Cherokee spoken by modern speakers. The Giduwa dialect (Eastern Band) and the Otali Dialect (also called the Overhill dialect) spoken in Oklahoma. The Otali dialect has drifted significantly from Sequoyah's syllabary in the past 150 years, and many contracted and borrowed words have been adopted into the language. These noun and verb roots in Cherokee, however, can still be mapped to Sequoyah's syllabary. In modern times, there are more than 85 syllables in use by modern Cherokee speakers. Modern Cherokee speakers who speak Otali employ 122 distinct syllables in Oklahoma.
Computer and smartphone usage
For years, many people wrote transliterated Cherokee on the internet or used poorly compatible fonts to type out the syllabary. However, since the fairly recent addition of the Cherokee syllables to Unicode, the Cherokee language is experiencing a renaissance in its use on the Internet. For example, the entire New Testament is online in Cherokee Syllabary, and there is a Cherokee language Wikipedia featuring over 400 articles. Since 2003, all Apple computers come with a Cherokee font installed.
Cherokee Nation members Joseph L. Erb, Roy Boney, Jr., and Thomas Jeff Edwards worked with Apple to bring official Cherokee language support to the iPhone and iPod Touch in iOS 4.1 (released 8-Sept-2010) and for the iPad with iOS 4.2.1 (released 22-Nov-2010).
Most Linux distributions support Cherokee input and display in any font containing the characters in Unicode environments.
A video game for learning the Cherokee language, "Talking Games", was released in March 2013.
Cherokee language in popular culture
The theme song "I Will Find You" from the 1992 film The Last of the Mohicans by the band Clannad features Máire Brennan singing in Cherokee as well as Mohican. Cherokee rapper Litefoot incorporates Cherokee into songs, as do Rita Coolidge's band Walela and the intertribal drum group, Feather River Singers.
The Cherokee Nation now has a radio show called "Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds" that plays songs in the Cherokee language, interviews speakers of the Cherokee language, and releases news and podcasts in both Cherokee and English. The show is hosted by Dennis Sixkiller and has been in operation since 2004. "Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds" currently airs on the radio in the Tahlequah area on Lakes Country 102.1 FM on Sundays from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. and on Classic Country KTLQ 1350 AM from 12 p.m. until 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. In the Claremore area, the show airs on the Rogers State University radio station, KRSC – 91.3 FM, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., and Sundays from 12 p.m. until 1 p.m. The show also airs on Siloam Springs , AR , station KUOA – 1290 AM, on Sundays from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m.  The show only operates in the state of Oklahoma.
- Cherokee reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Feeling, "Dictionary," p. viii
- Mooney, James. King, Duane (ed.). Myths of the Cherokee. Barnes & Noble. New York. 1888 (2007).
- Chavez, Will (2012-04-05). "Immersion students win trophies at language fair". Cherokeephoenix.org. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- Scancarelli, "Native Languages" p. 351
- Anderton, Alice, PhD. Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma. Intertribal Wordpath Society. 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
- Feeling, "Dictionary," p. ix
- Montgomery-Anderson, 2008, p. 49
- Montgomery-Anderson, 2008, p. 50
- Montgomery-Anderson, 2008, p. 51
- Montgomery-Anderson, 2008, p. 52
- Montgomery-Anderson, 2008, p. 54
- Feeling et al, "Verb" p. 16
- Robinson, "Conjugation" p. 60
- Feeling, "Dictionary" xiii
- Holmes, Ruth (1977) . "Cherokee Lesson 23". Beginning Cherokee. University of Oklahoma Press:Norman. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-8061-1463-7.
- Feeling, "Dictionary" p. 353
- Feeling, "Dictionary" p. 354
- Feeling, "Dictionary" xvii
- Feeling et al, "Verb" pp. 1–2
- Holmes and Smith, p. vi
- Holmes and Smith, p. vii
- Holmes and Smith, p. 43
- "ᎣᏪᏅᏒ - ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏖᎩᎾᎶᏥ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᏒᎢ (tsa-la-gi ga-wo-ni-hi-s-di te-gi-na-lo-tsi u-na-do-tlv-sv-i / Cherokee Language Technology)". Retrieved 2013-03-24.
- Cherokee New Testament Online. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
- ᎤᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ. Cherokee Wikipedia. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
- Cherokee language added to new iPhone and iPod software. Retrieved 9 Sept 2010.
- Cherokee language available on iPhone and iPod Touch. Retrieved 24 Sept 2010.
- . Retrieved 27 Mar 2011.
- Gmail in Cherokee
- Frederic Lardinois (2012-11-19). "Gmail Now Supports Cherokee, Its First Native American Tribal Language". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2012-11-29.
- Saylor, Ryan (2013-03-07). "Technology aids Cherokee language re-emergence". The City Wire. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
- "Cherokee (Tsalagi) Native American Language Lite". Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- "App Shopper: Cherokee (Tsalagi) Native American Language Basic (Education)". Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- "App Shopper: iSyllabary (Education)". Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- "App Shopper: iCherokee (Games)". Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- "Cherokee Language video game released". The Cherokee One Feather. 2013-03-27. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
- "I Will Find You" on YouTube
- I Will Find You song lyrics. Songlyrics.com.. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
- Feather River Singers. CD Baby. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
- Feeling, Durbin. Cherokee-English Dictionary: Tsalagi-Yonega Didehlogwasdohdi. Tahlequah, Oklahoma: Cherokee Nation, 1975.
- Feeling, Durbin, Craig Kopris, Jordan Lachler, and Charles van Tuyl. A Handbook of the Cherokee Verb: A Preliminary Study. Tahlequah, Oklahoma: Cherokee Heritage Center, 2003. ISBN 978-0-9742818-0-3.
- Holmes, Ruth Bradley, and Betty Sharp Smith. Beginning Cherokee: Talisgo Galiquogi Dideliquasdodi Tsalagi Digohweli. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976.
- Montgomery-Anderson, Brad (2008-05-30). "A Reference Grammar of Oklahoma Cherokee".
- Robinson, Prentice. Conjugation Made Easy: Cherokee Verb Study. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Cherokee Language and Culture, 2004. ISBN 978-1-882182-34-3.
- Scancarelli, Janine (2005). "Cherokee". in Janine Scancarelli and Heather K. Hardy (eds.). Native Languages of the Southeastern United States. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press in cooperation with the American Indian Studies Research Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington. pp. 351–384. OCLC 56834622.
- Bruchac, Joseph. Aniyunwiya/Real Human Beings: An Anthology of Contemporary Cherokee Prose. Greenfield Center, N.Y.: Greenfield Review Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-912678-92-4
- Cook, William Hinton (1979). A Grammar of North Carolina Cherokee. Ph.D. diss., Yale University. OCLC 7562394.
- King, Duane H. (1975). A Grammar and Dictionary of the Cherokee Language. Ph.D. diss., University of Georgia. OCLC 6203735.
- Lounsbury, Floyd G. (1978). "Iroquoian Languages". in Bruce G. Trigger (ed.). Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15: Northeast. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 334–343. OCLC 12682465.
- Montgomery-Anderson, Brad (2008-05-30). "A Reference Grammar of Oklahoma Cherokee".
- Munro, Pamela (ed.) (1996). Cherokee Papers from UCLA. UCLA Occasional Papers in Linguistics, no. 16. OCLC 36854333.
- Pulte, William, and Durbin Feeling. 2001. "Cherokee". In: Garry, Jane, and Carl Rubino (eds.) Facts About the World's Languages: An Encyclopedia of the World's Major Languages: Past and Present. New York: H. W. Wilson. (Viewed at the Rosetta Project)
- Scancarelli, Janine (1987). Grammatical Relations and Verb Agreement in Cherokee. Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles. OCLC 40812890.
- Scancarelli, Janine. "Cherokee Writing." The World's Writing Systems. 1998: Section 53.
|Cherokee edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Look up Cherokee in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Cherokee language repository of Wikisource, the free library|
|Wikibooks has more on the topic of: Cherokee language|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cherokee script.|
- Cherokee Nation Dikaneisdi (Word List)
- "Native American Audio Collections: Cherokee". American Philosophical Society.
- Cherokee New Testament Online Online translation of the New Testament. Currently the largest Cherokee document on the internet.
- Unicode Chart
- Cherokee Nation ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏖᎩᎾᎶᏥ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᏅᎢ (Tsalagi Gawonihisdi teginalotsi unadotlvnvi / Cherokee Language Technology
- WikiLang Cherokee page (Basic grammar information)
- CherokeeLessons.com (Hosts Creative Commons licensed materials including a textbook covering grammar and many hours of challenge/response based audio lesson files).
- Cherokee Language Online (Beginning dialogues, audio, flashcards and grammar)
- Cherokee numerals
- Cherokee – Sequoyah transliteration system – online conversion tool