The Cherokee syllabary was invented by George Guess/Gist,
a.k.a. Chief Sequoyah, of the Cherokee, and was developed between 1809 and 1824.
At first Sequoyah experimented with a writing system based on
logograms, but found this cumbersome and unsuitable for Cherokee.
He later developed a syllabary which was originally cursive and
hand-written, but it was too difficult and expensive to
produce a printed version, so he devised a new version
with some symbols based on letters from the Latin alphabet
and on Western numerals.
Sequoyah's descendants claim that he was the last surviving
member of his tribe's scribe clan and the Cherokee syllabary was
invented by persons unknown at a much earlier date. No archaeological
evidience has been found to verify this claim.
By 1820 thousands of Cherokees had learnt the syllabary, and by 1830,
90% were literate in their own language. Books, religious texts, almanacs
and newspapers were all published using the syllabary, which was widely
used for over 100 years.
Today the syllabary is still used; efforts are being made to revive
both the Cherokee language and the Cherokee syllabary, and Cherokee courses
are offered at a number of schools, colleges and universities.
- Type of writing system: syllabary
- Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
- Used to write: Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ), a Southern Iroquoian language
spoken by around 22,500 people in North Carolina (Tetsas / ᏖᏣᏍ)
and Oklahoma (Asgaya gigageyi / ᎠᏍᎦᏯ ᎩᎦᎨᏱ).
Hand-written Cherokee syllabary
Printed Cherokee syllabary
The consonants g and d are voiceless
in certain positions and in some dialects.
In the Otali (Oklahoma) dialect, a is often realised as /ɒ/;
ts can be pronounced /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /sʰ/, /ʤ/ or /ʧ/;
and w is pronounced /ɰ/.
- The Otali dialect has six tones, while the Quallah (Eastern) dialect usually (at
most) only bears a pitch accent.
You can hear the sounds of Cherokee at:
Sample text in Cherokee
Nigada aniyvwi nigeguda'lvna ale unihloyi unadehna duyukdv gesv'i.
Gejinela unadanvtehdi ale unohlisdi ale sagwu gesv junilvwisdanedi
anahldinvdlv adanvdo gvhdi.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about Cherokee |
Cherokee phrases |
Cherokee learning materials
Information about the Cherokee language and syllabary
Online Cherokee lessons
Online Cherokee dictionaries
Phrases in Cherokee
Cherokee transliteration system
Information about Chief Sequoyah and the Cherokee Syllabary, written by his descendants:
Sequoyah Birthplace Museum
Echota Tsalagi Language Revitalization Project
Cherokee Observer - online Cherokee newspaper
Cherokee Publications - Native American books, tapes, etc.
Place names of Cherokee origin
Caroline Island Script,