- Cherokee language
Cherokee ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ Tsalagi Gawonihisdi Spoken in United States Region Oklahoma and the Qualla Boundary, North Carolina Native speakers 12,000 to 22,000 Language familyIroquoian
- Southern Iroquoian
Writing system Cherokee syllabary, Latin alphabet Language codes ISO 639-2 chr ISO 639-3 chrOriginal distribution of the Cherokee languageCurrent distribution This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ, Tsalagi Gawonihisdi) is an Iroquoian language spoken by the Cherokee people which uses a unique syllabary writing system. It is the only Southern Iroquoian language that remains spoken. Cherokee is a polysynthetic language.
North American etymology
The North American origins and eventual English language form of "Cherokee" were researched by James Mooney in the nineteenth century. In his Myths of the Cherokee (1888) he reports:
- "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.
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. 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. As such, the word "Cherokee" when spoken in the language is expressed as Tsalagi (pronounced Jah-la-gee, Cha-la-gee, or Cha-la-g or TSA la gi by giduwa dialect speakers) by native speakers.
Cherokee only has one labial consonant, m–which is relatively new to the language. The language also lacks p and b. In the case of p, qu is often substituted (as in the name of Cherokee Wikipedia, Wi-gi-que-di-ya).
The consonant inventory for North Carolina Cherokee is 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, g, and dz and the aspirated allophones as t, k, and ts (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.
North Carolina Cherokee consonants Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal Plosive t k ʔ Affricate ts Fricative s h Nasal m n 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 "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.
Front Central Back Close i iː u uː Mid e eː ə̃ ə̃ː o oː Open a aː
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.
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. The syllabary, however, does not display tone, and real meaning discrepancies 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 tone-distinguished words by context.
Tone Name IPA Low ˨ High ˦ Rising ˨˦ Falling ˥˩ Highfall ˥˧ Lowfall ˧˩
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 excl. Plural incl. 1st gega - I'm going inega - We're going (you + I) osdega - We two are going (not you) otsega - We're all going (3+, not you) idega we're all going (3+, including you) 2nd hega - you're going 'sdega - you two are going itsega - you are all going 3rd ega - she/he/it's going 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 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, gawoniha can mean either "she is speaking" or "he is speaking."
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)
Conjugation of "Hand him..." Classifier Type Cherokee Translation Live hikasi Hand him (something living) Flexible hinvsi Hand him (something like clothes, rope) Long, Indefinite hidisi Hand him (something like a broom, pencil) Indefinite hivsi Hand him (something like food, book) Liquid 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 nasgi ("that") or 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 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, na asgaya agidoda ("that man is my father"). A noun phrase might be followed by an adjective, such as in agidoga utana ("my father is big").
Cherokee is written in an 85-character syllabary invented by Sequoyah (also known as Guest or George Gist). Some symbols resemble Latin alphabet letters, but with 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 0-9777339-0-4.
- 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 ditiyohihi (Cherokee:ᏗᏘᏲᎯᎯ) which means "he argues repeatedly and on purpose with a purpose." This is the Cherokee word for "attorney." Another example is didaniyisgi (Cherokee:ᏗᏓᏂᏱᏍᎩ) 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 gasoline (Cherokee:ᎦᏐᎵᏁ). 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 Amadikanigvnagvna (Cherokee:ᎠᎹᏗᎧᏂᎬᎾᎬᎾ) which means "the water is all gone gone from here" – i.e. "no water."
Other examples of adopted words are kawi (Cherokee:ᎧᏫ) for coffee and watsi (Cherokee:ᏩᏥ) for watch (which led to utana watsi (Cherokee:ᎤᏔᎾ ᏩᏥ) 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 nah 32 Ꮐ nah hna 31 Ꮏ hna qua 38 Ꮖ qua que 39 Ꮗ que qui 40 Ꮘ qui quo 41 Ꮙ quo quu 42 Ꮚ quu quv 43 Ꮛ quv dla 60 Ꮬ dla tla 61 Ꮭ tla tle 62 Ꮮ tle tli 63 Ꮯ tli tlo 64 Ꮰ tlo tlu 65 Ꮱ tlu tlv 66 Ꮲ tlv tsa 67 Ꮳ tsa tse 68 Ꮴ tse tsi 69 Ꮵ tsi tso 70 Ꮶ tso tsu 71 Ꮷ tsu tsv 72 Ꮸ tsv hah 79 Ꮿ ya gwu 11 Ꭻ gu gwi 40 Ꮘ qui hla 61 Ꮭ tla hwa 73 Ꮹ wa gwa 38 Ꮖ qua hlv 66 Ꮲ tlv guh 11 Ꭻ gu gwe 39 Ꮗ que wah 73 Ꮹ wa hnv 37 Ꮕ nv teh 54 Ꮦ te qwa 06 Ꭶ ga yah 79 Ꮿ ya na 30 Ꮎ na ne 33 Ꮑ ne ni 34 Ꮒ ni no 35 Ꮓ no nu 36 Ꮔ nu nv 37 Ꮕ nv ga 06 Ꭶ ga ka 07 Ꭷ ka ge 08 Ꭸ ge gi 09 Ꭹ gi go 10 Ꭺ go gu 11 Ꭻ gu gv 12 Ꭼ gv ha 13 Ꭽ ha he 14 Ꭾ he hi 15 Ꭿ hi ho 16 Ꮀ ho hu 17 Ꮁ hu hv 18 Ꮂ hv ma 25 Ꮉ ma me 26 Ꮊ me mi 27 Ꮋ mi mo 28 Ꮌ mo mu 29 Ꮍ mu da 51 Ꮣ da ta 52 Ꮤ ta de 53 Ꮥ de te 54 Ꮦ te di 55 Ꮧ di ti 56 Ꮨ ti do 57 Ꮩ do du 58 Ꮪ du dv 59 Ꮫ dv la 19 Ꮃ la le 20 Ꮄ le li 21 Ꮅ li lo 22 Ꮆ lo lu 23 Ꮇ lu lv 24 Ꮈ lv sa 44 Ꮜ sa se 46 Ꮞ se si 47 Ꮟ si so 48 Ꮠ so su 49 Ꮡ su sv 50 Ꮢ sv wa 73 Ꮹ wa we 74 Ꮺ we wi 75 Ꮻ wi wo 76 Ꮼ wo wu 77 Ꮽ wu wv 78 Ꮾ wv ya 79 Ꮿ ya ye 80 Ᏸ ye yi 81 Ᏹ yi yo 82 Ᏺ yo yu 83 Ᏻ yu yv 84 Ᏼ yv to 57 Ꮩ do tu 58 Ꮪ du ko 10 Ꭺ go tv 59 Ꮫ dv qa 73 Ꮹ wa ke 07 Ꭷ ka kv 12 Ꭼ gv ah 00 Ꭰ a qo 10 Ꭺ go oh 03 Ꭳ o ju 71 Ꮷ tsu ji 69 Ꮵ tsi ja 67 Ꮳ tsa je 68 Ꮴ tse jo 70 Ꮶ tso jv 72 Ꮸ tsv a 00 Ꭰ a e 01 Ꭱ e i 02 Ꭲ i o 03 Ꭳ o u 04 Ꭴ u v 05 Ꭵ v s 45 Ꮝ s n 30 Ꮎ na l 02 Ꭲ i t 52 Ꮤ ta d 55 Ꮧ di y 80 Ᏸ ye k 06 Ꭶ ga g 06 Ꭶ ga
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 200 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.
On March 25, 2011, Google announced the option to perform searches in Cherokee.
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.
- ^ Lewis, M. Paul (2009). "Cherokee: Language of United States". Ethnologue (on-line). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (sixteenth edition). http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=chr. Retrieved 6 September 2010.
- ^ Feeling, "Dictionary," p. viii
- ^ Mooney, James. King, Duane (ed.). Myths of the Cherokee. Barnes & Noble. New York. 1888 (2007).
- ^ 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. 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
- ^ a b Robinson, "Conjugation" p. 60
- ^ Feeling, "Dictionary" xiii
- ^ Holmes, Ruth (1977) . "Cherokee Lesson 23". Beginning Cherokee. University of Oklahoma Press:Norman. p. 209. ISBN 9780806114637.
- ^ a b Feeling, "Dictionary" p. 353
- ^ Feeling, "Dictionary" p. 354
- ^ Feeling, "Dictionary" xvii
- ^ Feeling et al, "Verb" pp. 1–2
- ^ Holmes and Smith, p. vi
- ^ a b Holmes and Smith, p. vii
- ^ Holmes and Smith, p. 43
- ^ Cherokee New Testament Online. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
- ^ ᎤᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ. Cherokee Wikipedia. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
- ^ a b 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)
- ^ Search in Cherokee (retrieved 27 Mar 2011)
- ^ "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 0-9742818-0-8.
- 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". http://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/dspace/bitstream/1808/4212/1/umi-ku-2613_1.pdf.
- Robinson, Prentice. Conjugation Made Easy: Cherokee Verb Study. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Cherokee Language and Culture, 2004. ISBN 1-882182-34-0.
- 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 0-912678-92-5
- 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". http://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/dspace/bitstream/1808/4212/1/umi-ku-2613_1.pdf.
- 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. (Viewed at the Rosetta Project)
- Cherokee Nation Dikaneisdi (Lexicon)
- Cherokee (Tsalagi) Lexicon
- Echota Tsalagi Language Project
- Cherokee New Testament Online Online translation of the New Testament. Currently the largest Cherokee document on the internet.
- Unicode Chart
- Official Cherokee Font (Not Unicode-compatible)
- 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).
- UNILANG forum for freely available teaching materials. (Includes PDF textbook and audio files).
- Cherokee numerals
Cherokee Tribes Culture HistoryCherokee history · Cherokee military history · Treaties · Kituwah Mound · Ani-kutani · Anglo-Cherokee War · Chickamauga Wars · Transylvania Purchase · Sycamore Shoals · Chickamauga Indians · Cherokee Phoenix · Treaty of New Echota · Original Cherokee Nation · Trail of Tears · Timeline of Cherokee removal · Civil War · Keetoowah Nighthawk Society · Cherokee Female Seminary · Cherokee Male Seminary Organizations Politics and law See also: Indigenous peoples of North America portal,
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- Southern Iroquoian
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