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(Cherokee, that is.) A bit off topic, but we've
discussed Sequoyah's Cherokee syllabary before.
During a trip to Topeka, Kansas USA for the
holidays, I decided
to return through the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and
find out more about the Cherokee language and the
*Beginning Cherokee* by Ruth Bradley Holmes, Betty
Paperback 2nd edition (September 1992) Univ of Oklahoma
ISBN: 0806114630 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.79 x 11.02
Available on Amazon.
I found this book at the Topeka, Kansas, public
immediately learns about contrasting distinctions and
distinctions not shown in Sequoyah's syllabary.
1) There are long/tense vowels and short/lax
vowels in Cherokee.
Holmes and Smith indicate long vowels with a colon.
a: as a in father a as a in rival
e: as a in hate e as e in met
i: as i in pique i as i in pit
o: as o in note o as aw in law
u: as oo in fool u as u in pull
v: nasalized schwa, v like v: but
like French un
Here both the length of time one holds the vowel
and the lax/tense
2) Stress accent, indicated by ' after a Cherokee
3) Sometimes the vowel is left out of the Sequoyah
syllable. One indicates this by following the
consonant with ' : hi'
-s-g' (five). There is a Cherokee character for a bare
sometimes the vowel is omitted in other characters.
4) A glottal stop, which is indicated with a
question mark. go?-
5) Cherokee does not have tone phonemes, but it
does have a pitch
accent which occasionally makes a difference in
meaning. There are
five pitches: 1) Low, 2) Normal, 3) Raised, 4) High,
and 5) sliding.
The authors simply give a few examples and otherwise do
There are other things, of lesser importance.
There is an "intrusive
h" inserted in various places, and k/g and d/t often
vary in voicing.
I cannot think of a language for which the
is not a contrasting distinction, if it is present.
and pitch accents often make no distinction at all. I
are rules for where the stress and pitch accents go,
although it's not
obvious to me.
The library at Muskogee actually had more material
on the Cherokee
language than the one at Tahlequah. Most of the
listed the English word, the Cherokee syllabic
characters, and a
transliteration into Latin characters without any of
above noted. One dictionary did have marks for the
One dictionary had further useful information:
"Cherokee English Language Reference" by Agnes
Spade Cower et al.
c1995 Cross-Cultural Consultants, Heritage Printing,
This had a syllabary table showing which of the
unwritten distinctions could be contained in a Cherokee
character. For instance, the character [gwu] has none
of the extra
distinctions; the character [jo] can have the glottal
Unfortunately, the words shown in this table usually
are not to
be found in Holmes and Smith; it must be a different
You can find other materials for learning Cherokee
Cherokee Messenger -Cherokee Language and Culture
The Society for the Study of the Indigenous
Languages of the Americas
under "Book Announcements" I found:
#434Munro, Pamela (editor). Cherokee Papers from UCLA.
Papers in Linguistics 16, 1996. $8.
Abstract: Contains: Richard Wright, "Tone and Accent in
Oklahoma Cherokee"; Edward S.
Flemming, "Laryngeal Metathesis and Vowel Deletion in
Cherokee"; Pamela Munro, "The
Cherokee Laryngeal Alternation Rule"; Barbara
Blankenship, "Classificatory Verbs in
Cherokee"; Michael Dukes, "Animacy and Agreement in
Cherokee"; Robert S. Williams,
"Cherokee Possession and the Status of -jeeli ";
Filippo Beghelli, "Cherokee Clause
Structure"; and Brian Potter, "Cherokee Agentive