|Native to||United States|
|Region||Oklahoma and the Qualla Boundary, North Carolina|
|Ethnicity||140,000 Cherokee people|
to c. 16,000
|Cherokee syllabary, Latin|
Original distribution of the Cherokee language
Distribution of Cherokee speakers by county, 2000.
Counties where Cherokee is the leading language spoken other than English
Counties where Cherokee is a significant minority language.
Cherokee (in 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.
Today, Cherokee is one of America's healthiest Native American languages because extensive documentation exists in the language. Significant numbers of speakers of all ages still populate the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina and several counties within the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, significantly Cherokee, Sequoyah, Mayes, Adair, and Delaware.
- 1 Names
- 2 History
- 3 Dialects
- 4 Status
- 5 Use
- 6 Phonology
- 7 Grammar
- 8 Orthography
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
- "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."
The Cherokees' own name for their language is Tsalagi (ᏣᎳᎩ) or Tslagi. They refer to themselves as Tsalagi (ᏣᎳᎩ) or Aniyunwiya (ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ), which means "Principal People." The Iroquois, who were based in New York, called the Cherokee Oyata’ge'ronoñ (inhabitants of the cave country).
Many theories – though none proven – abound about the origin of the word Cherokee. It may have originally been derived from the Choctaw word Cha-la-kee, which means "those who live in the mountains", or Choctaw Chi-luk-ik-bi, meaning "those who live in the cave country". The earliest Spanish rendering of Cherokee, from 1755, is Tchalaquei. Another theory is that "Cherokee" derives from a Lower Creek word, Ciló-kki, meaning someone who speaks another language. The most common derivation, however, is an Anglicisation of their autonym, or name for themselves: Tsalagi in their language.
There are two prevailing views about Cherokee origins, and most of what is known about Cherokee history can be studies through their traditional language. One theory is that the Cherokee, an Iroquoian-speaking people, are relative latecomers to Southern Appalachia, who may have migrated in late prehistoric times from northern areas, the traditional territory of the later Haudenosaunee five nations and other Iroquoian-speaking peoples. Researchers in the 19th century recorded conversations with elders who recounted an oral tradition of the Cherokee people's migrating south from the Great Lakes region in ancient times. The other theory, which is disputed by academic specialists, is that the Cherokee had been in the Southeast for thousands of years. There is no archeological evidence for this. Pre-contact Cherokee are considered to be part of the later Pisgah Phase of Southern Appalachia, which lasted from circa 1000 to 1500.
Much of what is known about pre-19th century Cherokee culture and society comes from the papers of American writer John Howard Payne. The Payne papers describe the account by Cherokee elders of a traditional societal structure in which a "white" organization of elders represented the seven clans. According to Payne, this group, which was hereditary and described as priestly, was responsible for religious activities such as healing, purification, and prayer. A second group of younger men, the "red" organization, was responsible for warfare. Warfare was considered a polluting activity, which required the purification of the priestly class before participants could reintegrate into normal village life. This hierarchy had disappeared long before the 18th century. The reasons for the change have been debated, with the origin of the decline often located with a revolt by the Cherokee against the abuses of the priestly class known as the Ani-kutani( "Aní-" is a prefix referring to a group of individuals, while the meaning of "kutáni" is unknown).
Ethnographer James Mooney, who studied the Cherokee in the late 1880s, first traced the decline of the former hierarchy to this revolt. By the time of Mooney, the structure of Cherokee religious practitioners was more informal, based more on individual knowledge and ability than upon heredity.
Another major source of early cultural history comes from materials written in the 19th century by the didanvwisgi (Cherokee:ᏗᏓᏅᏫᏍᎩ), Cherokee medicine men, after Sequoyah's creation of the Cherokee syllabary in the 1820s. Initially only the didanvwisgi used these materials, which were considered extremely powerful. Later, the writings were widely adopted by the Cherokee people.
Unlike most other Indians in the American southeast at the start of the historic era, the Cherokee spoke an Iroquoian language. Since the Great Lakes region was the core of Iroquoian language speakers, scholars have theorized that the Cherokee migrated south from that region. However, some argue that the Iroquois migrated north from the southeast, with the Tuscarora breaking off from that group during the migration. Linguistic analysis shows a relatively large difference between Cherokee and the northern Iroquoian languages, suggesting a split in the distant past. Glottochronology studies suggest the split occurred between about 1,500 and 1,800 B.C. The ancient settlement of Kituwa on the Tuckasegee River, formerly next to and now part of Qualla Boundary (the reservation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), is often cited as the original Cherokee settlement in the Southeast.
Cherokees were displaced from their ancestral lands in northern Georgia and the Carolinas in a period of rapidly expanding white population. Some of the rapid expansion was due to a gold rush around Dahlonega, Georgia in the 1830s. President Andrew Jackson said removal policy was an effort to prevent the Cherokee from facing the fate of "the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware". However there is ample evidence that the Cherokee were adapting modern farming techniques, and a modern analysis shows that the area was in general in a state of economic surplus.
In June 1830, a delegation of Cherokees led by Chief Ross brought their grievances about tribal sovereignty over state government to the US Supreme Court in the Cherokee Nation v. Georgia case. In the case Worcester v. Georgia, the United States Supreme Court held that Cherokee Native Americans were entitled to federal protection from the actions of state governments. Worcester v. Georgia is considered one of the most important decisions in law dealing with Native Americans.
Despite the Worcester v. Georgia ruling in their favor, the majority of Cherokees were forcibly relocated westward to Indian Territory in 1838–1839, a migration known as the Trail of Tears or in Cherokee ᏅᎾ ᏓᎤᎳ ᏨᏱ or Nvna Daula Tsvyi (Cherokee: The Trail Where They Cried). This took place during the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The harsh treatment the Cherokee received at the hands of white settlers caused some to enroll to emigrate west. As some Cherokees were slaveholders, they took enslaved African-Americans with them west of the Mississippi. Intermarried European-Americans and missionaries also walked the Trail of Tears.
On June 22, 1839, Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot were assassinated by a party of twenty-five extremist Ross supporters that included Daniel Colston, John Vann, Archibald Spear, James Spear, Joseph Spear, Hunter, and others. Stand Watie fought off the attempt on his life that day and escaped to Arkansas.
Today, the Cherokee language is still spoken, though over the course of the 20th century use of the language declined due to reform schools initiated to eradicate the supposedly inferior culture of the Indians. According to one Cherokee elder in North Carolina, :
|“||Punishments were in the form of a leather belt or laundry soap. They'd put it in our mouths and say 'we're going to wash that language out.'||”|
—Cherokee elder, Our State Magazine, 
Use of the language is now increasing due to immersion schools in numerous locations.
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 9,000 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.
|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.
Though Cherokee has no official status in the United States of America, it remains an integral part of Cherokee history and culture. The Cherokee language currently retains between 10,400  and 22,500 speakers, though a figure of about 16,000 appears to be most widely accepted. Cherokee is currently one of only five indigenous languages of Oklahoma still spoken by children  and it is the most populous indigenous language in the states of Oklahoma and North Carolina.
Because use of Native American languages is now regaining interest from community members after a generation of language discontinuation, most Cherokee speakers are over 50 or under 5 years of age.
The Cherokee language has been tenuously preserved by its speech communities through a number of different practices. However despite its considerable vitality (with respect to other indigenous languages), the language exhibits vulnerability. In August 2002, the Cherokee Nation conducted a survey of 115,026 Cherokee citizens who live in the 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation to evaluate the status of the language. Of those surveyed, 91% reported that they at least heard the language being used in the public domain; 18% heard the language used in hospitals, 14% reported hearing the language in church, 12% used/heard the language at home, 9% heard it in stores, 8% heard it at work, 7% heard it at school, 7% heard it on grounds, 6% heard it in courts, and 8% heard it in other settings. In the home, Cherokee was only used by 17% of survey respondents; the overwhelming majority spoke only English in the home setting. 18% of the surveyed persons spoke Cherokee as a first language, and 5% had learned both Cherokee and English jointly as first languages. Results from this survey and others indicated a decline in usage. To revert this, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation has invested $3 million into opening schools, training teachers, and developing curriculums for language education, as well as initiating community gatherings where the language can be actively used.
Immersion schools have kept children speaking and acquiring the language. The Kituwah Preservation & Education Program has been initiated by the Eastern Band of Cherokees to help stabilize the language, offering classes to over 75 students ages seven months to seven years in which the Cherokee language is the medium of instruction. The Cherokee Nation sponsors a language preservation project, offering online classes for Cherokee language levels I, II, and III. Participants can test their knowledge of the language online at the Cherokee Learning Center, also sponsored by the Cherokee Nation. Classes for adults who do not yet speak the language are offered in many locations.
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.
As of 2014, elderly monolingual Cherokee speakers are assisting in language revival efforts.
Several universities offer Cherokee as a second language, including the University of Oklahoma, Northeast Oklahoma University, and Western Carolina University. Western Carolina University has partnered with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) to promote and restore the language through the school's Cherokee Studies program, which offers classes in and about the language and culture of the Cherokee Indians. The University and the EBCI have initiated a ten-year language revitalization plan, constituting of: (1) a continuation of the improvement and expansion of the EBCI Atse Kituwah Cherokee Language Immersion School, (2) continued development of Cherokee language learning resources, and (3) building of Western Carolina University programs to offer a more comprehensive language training curriculum.
As of 1986, the literacy rate for first language speakers was 15%–20% who could read and 5% who could write (according to the 1986 Cherokee Heritage Center); its is quite possible that literacy has increased since the development of numerous immersion schools for children. According to the 1986 Cherokee Advocate, the language is taught in both schools and churches. There is a Cherokee dictionary and grammar as well as translated portions of the New Testament of the Bible from 1850–1951.
Other resources helping to expand and develop Cherokee include books. The following books exist in the Cherokee language, among others:
- 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.
Technology has also allowed use of Cherokee to expand. 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.
The Cherokee language has also made some appearances in popular culture which help it further develop. 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.
See main article: Cherokee Phoenix
The Cherokee Phoenix (ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅᎯ, Tsalagi Tsulehisanvhi) was the first newspaper published by Native Americans in the United States and the first published in a Native American language. The first issue was published in English and Cherokee on February 21, 1828, in New Echota, capital of the Cherokee Nation (present-day Georgia). The paper continued until 1834. The Cherokee Phoenix was revived in the 20th century, and today it publishes on the Web.
The Cherokee Phoenix has published intermittently since its beginning in New Echota. It is now published by the Cherokee Nation as a monthly broadsheet in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The newspaper has modernized. It publishes on the Web and is available on the iPhone.
A digitized, searchable version of the paper is available through the University of Georgia Libraries and the Digital Library of Georgia. Transcriptions of the English-language portions of the 19th-century newspaper can be found at Western Carolina University's Hunter Library's Web site.
Artists Jeff Marley and Frank Brannon completed a collaborative project on October 19th, 2013, in which they printed using Cherokee syllabary type in the print shop at New Echota. This was the first time syllabary printing type has been used at New Echota since 1835. 
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").
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.
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.
Though use of the Cherokee syllabary declined after many of the Cherokee were relocated to Oklahoma, it has survived in private correspondence, renderings of the Bible, and descriptions of Indian medicine and now can be found in books and on the internet among other places.
Each of the characters represents one syllable, such as in the Japanese kana and the Bronze Age Greek Linear B writing systems. The first six characters represent isolated vowel syllables. Characters for combined consonant and vowel syllables then follow. It is recited from left to right, top to bottom.[page needed]
The charts below show the syllabary as arranged by Samuel Worcester along with his commonly used transliterations. He played a key role in the development of Cherokee printing from 1828 until his death in 1859.
Syllabary shown using an image
- In the chart, ‘v’ represents a nasal vowel, /ə̃/.
- The character Ꮩ do is shown upside-down in the chart, and in some fonts. It should be oriented in the same way as the Latin letter V.[a]
Syllabary shown using Unicode Text
The phonetic values of these characters do not equate directly to those represented by the letters of the Latin script. Some characters represent two distinct phonetic values (actually heard as different syllables), while others often represent different forms of the same syllable.[page needed] Not all phonemic distinctions of the spoken language are represented. For example, while /d/ + vowel syllables are mostly differentiated from /t/+vowel by use of different graphs, syllables beginning with /g/ are all conflated with those beginning with /k/. Also, long vowels are not ordinarily distinguished from short vowels, tones are not marked, and there is no regular rule for representing consonant clusters. However, in more recent technical literature, length of vowels can actually be indicated using a colon. Six distinctive vowel qualities are represented in the Cherokee syllabary based on where they are pronounced in the mouth, including the high vowels i and u, mid vowels e, v, and o, and low vowel a. The syllabary also does not distinguish among syllables that end in vowels, h, or glottal stop. For example, the single symbol, Ꮡ, is used to represent su in su:dali, meaning six (ᏑᏓᎵ). This same symbol Ꮡ represents suh as in suhdi, meaning 'fishhook' (ᏑᏗ). Therefore, there is no differentiation among the symbols used for syllables ending in a single vowel versus that vowel plus "h." When consonants other than s, h, or glottal stop arise with other consonants in clusters, the appropriate consonant plus a "dummy vowel" is used. This dummy vowel is not pronounced and is either chosen arbitrarily or for etymological reasons (reflecting an underlying etymological vowel). For example, ᏧᎾᏍᏗ (tsu-na-s-di) represents the word ju:nsdi, meaning 'small.' Ns in this case is the consonant cluster that requires the following dummy vowel, a. Ns is written as ᎾᏍ /nas/. The vowel is included in the transliteration, but is not pronounced in the word (ju:nsdi). (The transliterated ts represents the affricate j).[page needed] As with some other writing systems (like Arabic), adult speakers can distinguish words by context.
Some Cherokee words pose a problem for transliteration software because they contain adjacent pairs of single letter symbols that (without special provisions) would be combined when doing the back conversion from Latin script to Cherokee. Here are a few examples:
- ᎢᏣᎵᏍᎠᏁᏗ = itsalisanedi = i-tsa-li-s-a-ne-di
- ᎤᎵᎩᏳᏍᎠᏅᏁ = uligiyusanvne = u-li-gi-yu-s-a-nv-ne
- ᎤᏂᏰᏍᎢᏱ = uniyesiyi = u-ni-ye-s-i-yi
- ᎾᏍᎢᏯ = nasiya = na-s-i-ya
For these examples, the back conversion is likely to join s-a as sa or s-i as si.
Other Cherokee words contain character pairs that entail overlapping transliteration sequences. Examples:
- ᏀᎾ transliterates as nahna, yet so does ᎾᎿ. The former is nah-na, the latter is na-hna.
If the Latin script is parsed from left to right, longest match first, then without special provisions, the back conversion would be wrong for the latter. There are several similar examples involving these character combinations: naha nahe nahi naho nahu nahv.
A further problem encountered in transliterating Cherokee is that there are some pairs of different Cherokee words that transliterate to the same word in the Latin script. Here are some examples:
- ᎠᏍᎡᏃ and ᎠᏎᏃ both transliterate to aseno
- ᎨᏍᎥᎢ and ᎨᏒᎢ both transliterate to gesvi
Without special provision, a round trip conversion changes ᎠᏍᎡᏃ to ᎠᏎᏃ and changes ᎨᏍᎥᎢ to ᎨᏒᎢ.[b]
- Cherokee at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- "Cherokee". Endangered Languages Project. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- Feeling, "Dictionary," p. viii
- Mooney, James. King, Duane (ed.). Myths of the Cherokee. Barnes & Noble. New York. 1888 (2007).
- Cherokee Indian Tribe. Access Genealogy. (September 21, 2009)
- Charles A. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail, (New York: 1911).
- Sturtevant and Fogelson, 349
- Sturtevant and Fogelson, 132
- Who Were the Aní-Kutánî? An Excursion into Cherokee Historical Thought. JSTOR 482712. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- Irwin 1992.
- Mooney, p. 392.
- Mooney, James (1995) . Myths of the Cherokee. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-28907-9.
- Glottochronology from: Lounsbury, Floyd (1961), and Mithun, Marianne (1981), cited in Nicholas A. Hopkins, The Native Languages of the Southeastern United States.
- Wishart, p. 120.
- Wishart 1995.
- Perdue (2000), p. 565.
- Scancarelli, "Native Languages" p. 351
- Anderton, Alice, PhD. Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma. Intertribal Wordpath Society. 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
- "Current Status of the Cherokee Language - DRAFT". 2002-08-13. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- Cherokee language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Thompson, Irene (2013-08-06). "Cherokee". Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Status of Indian Languages in Oklahoma". Intertribal Wordpath Society. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- VOA video. "North Carolina Cherokee Indians Take Steps to Preserve Language". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Cherokee Language Revitalization". Cherokee Preservation Foundation. 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Native Now : Language: Cherokee". We Shall Remain - American Experience - PBS. 2008. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Kituwah Preservation & Education". Eastern Band of Cherokee. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Language". Cherokee Nation. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Welcome to the Cherokee Learning Center". Cherokee Nation. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- Chavez, Will (2012-04-05). "Immersion students win trophies at language fair". Cherokeephoenix.org. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- "Tribes draw knowledge from monolingual speakers". Cherokeephoenix.org. 2014-04-08. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Cherokee Language Revitalization Project". Western Carolina University. 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Cherokee". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
- "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.
- Hauk, Alexis. "Radio Free Cherokee: Endangered Languages Take to the Airwaves". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Cherokee Nation Radio Show". Cherokee Nation. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- LeBeau, Patrik. Term Paper Resource Guide to American Indian History. Greenwoord. Westport, CT: 2009. p132.
- Woods, Thomas E. Exploring American History: Penn, William - Serra, Junípero Cavendish. Tarrytown, NY: 2008. p829.
- Cherokee Phoenix Website, (retrieved 16 Oct 2010)
- GALILEO Digital Initiative Database, Georgia Historic Newspapers
- Cherokee Phoenix, Western Carolina University
- Cherokee language printed at historic site for first time in 178 years, Macon County News
- 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
- Holmes and Smith, p. vi
- Holmes and Smith, p. vii
- Holmes and Smith, p. 43
- Feeling, "Dictionary" xvii
- Feeling et al, "Verb" pp. 1–2
- Walker & Sarbaugh 1993.
- "Cherokee", Font download.
- Scancarelli 2005.
- There was a difference between the old-form DO (Λ-like) and a new-form DO (V-like). The standard Digohweli font displays the new-form. Old Do Digohweli and Code2000 fonts both display the old-form
- This has been confirmed using the online transliteration service.
- 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