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ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗTsalagi Gawonihisdi
The Cherokee syllabary is a syllabary invented by Sequoyah in the late 1810s and early 1820s to write the Cherokee language. His creation of the syllabary is particularly noteworthy as he could not previously read any script.He first experimented with logograms, but his system later developed into a syllabary. In his system, each symbol represents a syllable rather than a single phoneme; the 85 (originally 86) characters provide a suitable method to write Cherokee. Although some symbols resemble Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic letters, the relationship between symbols and sounds is different.
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent the syllables or moras which make up words. A symbol in a syllabary, called a syllabogram, typically represents an (optional) consonant sound followed by a vowel sound (nucleus)—that is, a CV or V syllable—but other phonographic mappings such as CVC, CV- tone, and C are also found in syllabaries.
Sequoyah (c.1770–1843), was an American and Cherokee polymath. In 1821 he completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible. This was one of the very few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people created an original, effective writing system. After seeing its worth, the people of the Cherokee Nation rapidly began to use his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825. Their literacy rate quickly surpassed that of surrounding European-American settlers.
Cherokee is an endangered Iroquoian language and the native language of the Cherokee people. There were 1,520 Cherokee speakers out of 376,000 Cherokee in 2018. The number of speakers is in decline. About 8 fluent speakers die each month, and only a handful of people under 40 are fluent. The dialect of Cherokee in Oklahoma is "definitely endangered", and the one in North Carolina is "severely endangered" according to UNESCO. The Lower dialect, formerly spoken on the South Carolina–Georgia border, has been extinct since about 1900. Cherokee speakers populate several counties within the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina. Around 200 speakers of the Eastern dialect remain and language preservation efforts include the New Kituwah Academy. The Cherokee Immersion School is also present in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Each of the characters represents one syllable, 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.
Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japanese has been grouped with language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.
Kana (仮名) are syllabic Japanese scripts, a part of the Japanese writing system contrasted with the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji (漢字). There are three kana scripts: modern cursive hiragana (ひらがな); modern angular katakana (カタカナ); and the old syllabic use of kanji known as man'yōgana (万葉仮名) that was ancestral to both. Hentaigana are historical variants of modern standard hiragana. In modern Japanese, hiragana and katakana have directly corresponding character sets.
The Bronze Age is a historical period characterized by the use of bronze, and in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the three-age Stone-Bronze-Iron system, as proposed in modern times by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, for classifying and studying ancient societies.
The charts below show the syllabary in recitation order, left to right, top to bottom 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.
Samuel Austin Worcester, was a missionary to the Cherokee, translator of the Bible, printer, and defender of the Cherokee's sovereignty. He collaborated with Elias Boudinot in the American Southeast to establish the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper. The Cherokees gave him the honorary name A-tse-nu-sti, which translates to "messenger" in English.
|The chart below uses Unicode characters from the Cherokee block. For an image alternative, see File:Cherokee Syllabary.svg.|
|* The character Ᏽ was previously used to represent the syllable mv, but is no longer used.|
The Latin letter 'v' in the transcriptions, seen in the last column, represents a nasal vowel, /ə̃/.
A nasal vowel is a vowel that is produced with a lowering of the soft palate so that the air flow escapes through the nose and the mouth simultaneously, as in the French vowel
The Cherokee character Ꮩ do has a different orientation in old documents, resembling a Greek Λ (or barless A) rather than a Latin V as in modern documents.
There is also a handwritten cursive form of the syllabary;notably, the handwritten glyphs bear little resemblance to the printed forms.
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 may represent multiple variations of the same syllable. /d/ + vowel syllables are mostly differentiated from /t/ + vowel by use of different graphs, syllables beginning with /ɡ/ are all conflated with those beginning with /k/, so that in most cases, /k/ is written with a glyph in the g row. 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.Not all phonemic distinctions of the spoken language are represented. For example, while
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 ] Adult speakers can distinguish words by context.
If a labial consonant such as p or b appears in a borrowed word or name, it is written using the qu row. This /kw/ ~ /p/ correspondence is a known linguistic phenomenon that exists elsewhere (cf. P-Celtic, Osco-Umbrian).
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:
For these examples, the back conversion is likely to join s-a as sa or s-i as si. One solution is to use an apostrophe to separate the two,[ citation needed ] as is done in Japanese (e.g.: Man'yogana): itsalis'anedi.
Other Cherokee words contain character pairs that entail overlapping transliteration sequences. Examples:
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:
Without special provision, a round trip conversion may change ᎠᏍᎡᏃ to ᎠᏎᏃ and change ᎨᏍᎥᎢ to ᎨᏒᎢ.
Cherokee uses Arabic numerals (0–9). Sequoyah proposed a system of numerals for Cherokee, but his system was never adopted.Sequoyah's system included symbols for 1–20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 as well as a symbol for three zeros for numbers in the thousands and a symbol for six zeros for numbers in the millions. These last two symbols representing 000 and 000,000 are made up of three separate symbols each.
Around 1809, impressed by the "talking leaves" of European written languages, Sequoyah began work to create a writing system for the Cherokee language. After attempting to create a character for each word, Sequoyah realized this would be too difficult and eventually created characters to represent syllables. Sequoyah took some ideas from his copy of the Bible, which he studied for characters to use in print, noticing the simplicity of the Roman letters and adopting them to make the writing of his syllabary easier. He worked on the syllabary for twelve years before completion, and dropped or modified most of the characters he originally created.
After the syllabary was completed in the early 1820s, it achieved almost instantaneous popularity and spread rapidly throughout Cherokee society.By 1825, the majority of Cherokees could read and write in their newly developed orthography.
Some of Sequoyah's most learned contemporaries immediately understood that the syllabary was a great invention. For example, when Albert Gallatin, a politician and trained linguist, saw a copy of Sequoyah's syllabary, he believed it was superior to the English alphabet.[ clarification needed ] He recognized that even though the Cherokee student must learn 85 characters instead of 26 for English, the Cherokee could read immediately after learning all the symbols. The Cherokee student could accomplish in a few weeks what students of English writing might require two years to achieve.
In 1828, the order of the characters in a chart and the shapes of the characters were modified by Cherokee author and editor Elias Boudinot to adapt the syllabary to printing presses.The 86th character was dropped entirely. Following these changes, the syllabary was adopted by the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper, later Cherokee Advocate , followed by the Cherokee Messenger, a bilingual paper printed in Indian Territory in the mid-19th century.
In 1834, Worcester made changes to several characters in order to improve the readability of Cherokee text. Most notably, he inverted the do character (Ꮩ) so that it could not be confused with the go character (Ꭺ).Otherwise, the characters remained remarkably invariant until the advent of new typesetting technologies in the 20th century.
In the 1960s, the Cherokee Phoenix Press began publishing literature in the Cherokee syllabary, including the Cherokee Singing Book.A Cherokee syllabary typewriter ball was developed for the IBM Selectric in the late 1970s. Computer fonts greatly expanded Cherokee writers' ability to publish in Cherokee. In 2010, a Cherokee keyboard cover was developed by Roy Boney, Jr. and Joseph Erb, facilitating more rapid typing in Cherokee. The keyboard cover is now used by students in the Cherokee Nation Immersion School, where all coursework is written in syllabary.
In August 2010, the Oconaluftee Institute for Cultural Arts in Cherokee, North Carolina acquired a letterpress and had the Cherokee syllabary recast to begin printing one-of-a-kind fine art books and prints in syllabary.Artists Jeff Marley and Frank Brannon completed a collaborative project on October 19, 2013, in which they printed using Cherokee syllabary type from Southwestern Community College in the print shop at New Echota. This was the first time syllabary type has been used at New Echota since 1835.
In 2015 the Unicode Consortium encoded a lowercase version of the script, since typists would often set Cherokee with two different point sizes, so as to mark beginnings of sentences and given names (as in the Latin alphabet). Handwritten Cherokee also shows a difference in lower- and uppercase letters, such as descenders and ascenders.Lowercase Cherokee has already been encoded in the font Everson Mono.
The syllabary is finding increasingly diverse usage today, from books, newspapers, and websites to the street signs of Tahlequah, Oklahoma and Cherokee, North Carolina. An increasing corpus of children's literature is printed in Cherokee syllabary to meet the needs of Cherokee students in the Cherokee language immersion schools in Oklahoma and North Carolina.[ citation needed ]
In recent years evidence has emerged suggesting that the Cherokee syllabary provided a model for the design of the Vai syllabary in Liberia, Africa. The Vai syllabary emerged about 1832/33. The link appears to have been Cherokee who emigrated to Liberia after the invention of the Cherokee syllabary (which in its early years spread rapidly among the Cherokee) but before the inventions of the Vai syllabary. One such man, Austin Curtis, married into a prominent Vai family and became an important Vai chief himself. It is perhaps not coincidence that the "inscription on a house" that drew the world's attention to the existence of the Vai script was in fact on the home of Curtis, a Cherokee.There also appears to be a connection between an early form of written Bassa and the earlier Cherokee syllabary.
Cherokee language classes typically begin with a transliteration of Cherokee into Roman letters, only later incorporating the syllabary. The Cherokee language classes offered through Haskell Indian Nations University, Northeastern State University,the University of Oklahoma, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Western Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill , and the elementary school immersion classes offered by the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Immersion School all teach the syllabary. The fine arts degree program at Southwestern Community College incorporates the syllabary in its printmaking classes.
Cherokee was added to the Unicode Standard in September, 1999 with the release of version 3.0. On June 17, 2015, with the release of version 8.0, Cherokee was redefined as a bicameral script; the character repertoire was extended to include a complete set of lowercase Cherokee letters as well as the archaic character (Ᏽ).
The first Unicode block for Cherokee is U+13A0–U+13FF. It contains all 86 uppercase letters, together with six lowercase letters:
| Cherokee   |
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
The Cherokee Supplement block is U+AB70–U+ABBF. It contains the remaining 80 lowercase letters.
| Cherokee Supplement  |
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
A single Cherokee Unicode font, Plantagenet Cherokee, is supplied with macOS, version 10.3 (Panther) and later. Windows Vista also includes a Cherokee font. Several free Cherokee fonts are available including Digohweli, Donisiladv, and Noto Sans Cherokee. Some pan-Unicode fonts, such as Code2000, Everson Mono, and GNU FreeFont, include Cherokee characters. A commercial font, Phoreus Cherokee, published by TypeCulture, includes multiple weights and styles.
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Lao script or Akson Lao is the primary script used to write the Lao language and other minority languages in Laos. It was also used to write the Isan language, but was replaced by the Thai script. It has 27 consonants, 7 consonantal ligatures, 33 vowels, and 4 tone marks.
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The Javanese script, natively known as Aksara Jawa and Hanacaraka, formally known as Déntawyanjana and Carakan, is an abugida developed by the Javanese people to write several Austronesian languages spoken in Indonesia, primarily the Javanese language and an early form of Javanese called Kawi, as well as Sanskrit, an Indo-Aryan language used as a sacred language throughout Asia. The Javanese script is a descendant of the Brahmi script and therefore has many similarities with the modern scripts of South India and Southeast Asia. The Javanese script, along with the Balinese script, is considered the most elaborate and ornate among Brahmic scripts of Southeast Asia.
Canadian syllabic writing, or simply syllabics, is a family of abugidas created by James Evans to write a number of indigenous Canadian languages of the Algonquian, Inuit, and (formerly) Athabaskan language families, of which had no formal writing system previously. They are valued for their distinctiveness from the Latin script of the dominant languages and for the ease with which literacy can be achieved; indeed, by the late 19th century the Cree had achieved what may have been one of the highest rates of literacy in the world.
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The Vai syllabary is a syllabic writing system devised for the Vai language by Momolu Duwalu Bukele of Jondu, in what is now Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia. Bukele is regarded within the Vai community, as well as by most scholars, as the syllabary's inventor and chief promoter when it was first documented in the 1830s. It is one of the two most successful indigenous scripts in West Africa in terms of the number of current users and the availability of literature written in the script, the other being N'Ko.
Carrier or Déné syllabics is a script created by Adrien-Gabriel Morice for the Carrier language. It was inspired by Cree syllabics and is one of the writing systems in the Canadian Aboriginal syllabics Unicode range.
The Woleai or Caroline Island script, thought to have been a syllabary, was a partially Latin-based script indigenous to Woleai Atoll and nearby islands of Micronesia and used to write the Woleaian language until the mid 20th century. At the time the script was first noticed by Europeans, Micronesia was known as the Caroline Islands, hence the name Caroline Island script.
A writing system is any conventional method of visually representing verbal communication. While both writing and speech are useful in conveying messages, writing differs in also being a reliable form of information storage and transfer. The processes of encoding and decoding writing systems involve shared understanding between writers and readers of the meaning behind the sets of characters that make up a script. Writing is usually recorded onto a durable medium, such as paper or electronic storage, although non-durable methods may also be used, such as writing on a computer display, on a blackboard, in sand, or by skywriting.
The Bamum scripts are an evolutionary series of six scripts created for the Bamum language by King Njoya of Cameroon at the turn of the 19th century. They are notable for evolving from a pictographic system to a partially alphabetic syllabic script in the space of 14 years, from 1896 to 1910. Bamum type was cast in 1918, but the script fell into disuse around 1931. A project began around 2007 to revive the Bamum script.
This article is a detailed history of the Cherokee language, the Native American Iroquoian language spoken by the Cherokee people.
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