This week’s language of the week is Cherokee. Cherokee (Tsalagi, ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ) is a Southern Iroquian language spoken in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Tsalagi is apparently a Creek word meaning ‘people with another language’ (what Creek people called Cherokees). As the writer of the native-languages.org entry put it, “it’s quite amazing how many times white settlers always managed to learn some other tribe’s name for any group of Indians.” They learnt the Creek name for Cherokee but not the Creek name for Creek (by the way, in the same vein, Mohawk is an Algonquian name, not a Mohawk name).
There’s a huge amount of information about Cherokee on the net. Here’s a small linkfest:
- http://www.native-languages.org/cherokee.htm which itself has a very good set of links on Cherokee language and history.
- The language section of the Cherokee nation’s web site.
- A set of language lessons, put out by Cherokee speakers in California.
- A Cherokee online translation tool,which will cease working as of Sept 1st. Some political and cost issues, apparently.
- The Yamada language centre’s Cherokee page, with links.
- Raven’s Tsalagi resources.
- Wikipedia‘s Cherokee language page.
The Cherokee syllabary was invented by Sequioa, who developed it after seeing English writing (but he himself did not speak English). Wikipedia has a note that in all cases where a writing system has been invented from scratch where the person did not have direct experience with alphabetic writing, the result was a syllabary. That’s very interesting, if it’s true.