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Cherokee Language: Syllables Part 1


The Cherokee language does not have an alphabet. However, they use syllables for writing.

The following vowels are pronounced...

(a) - as (a) in father.

(e) - as (a) in play.

(i) - as (i) in hit

(o) - as (o) in note

(u) - as (oo) in pool

(v) - as (u) in but, nasilized

A Syllables...

- a

- ga

- ka

- ha

- la

- ma

- na

- hna

- nah

- kua

- s

- sa

- da

- ta

- dla

- tla

- tsa

- wa

- ya

Cherokee does not contain the English consonants: b f p r t v x z.

July 23, 2015



Thanks for this interesting post.

I think that the syllabary is even easier to understand and learn if you present it in the traditional table format, like here http://www.omniglot.com/writing/cherokee.htm

Then you can see how logical it is, and how all the syllables are covered.

As an interesting side note, Sequoyah (the inventor of the syllabary) originally tried to make a system of ideograms (one character for each word) but thankfully gave that up. Then his initial pass at a syllabary produced a system with more than 200 syllables. He managed to get it down 83 in the final version by creating a separate "S" character. That one simplification eliminated the need for a lot of additional syllables.

  • 49

Wow, this reminds me so much of the Japanese syllabary. See here, if interested in comparing: http://www.japanorama.com/hira_ref.html

In addition to the basic syllables, there are additional ones that are made by adding extra marks to some of the basic syllables, to make sounds such as ga, gi gu ge go and da di du de do. Probably just coincidence, but interesting to see the similarities.


That is really interesting. I guess it comes down to the fact that both syllabaries are phonetic, and there really are only so many different syllables that can be formed. Similar to the fact that most alphabets can be made to appear to have a correspondence with just a few outlying sounds that may appear in one language but not others.

To me the most remarkable thing about the Cherokee syllabary is the fact that the creator was functionally illiterate. That is, he did not know how to write English or any other language at the time that he created this system. So it was entirely from his own imagination and experimentation.

  • 49

Yes of course, that makes sense. There is a finite amount of sounds that humans are capable of producing, some more easily than others, so there are going to be similarities across languages, even ones that have no connection to each other. Also, the two syllabaries only look similar in writing--I'm sure the actual sounds that correspond to the written syllables are actually quite different.

That is really incredible about the creator of the Cherokee writing system! He must have been a sort of genius.


Thank you for making this! I am so happy to see it on here. I hope duolingo adds Cherokee to the incubator as well.


Can you give some examples of how they use syllables for writing? Thanks! (I'm originally from Oklahoma!)


I'm going to be adding more lessons on the Cherokee syllables so when I get far enough to make words I will start adding words.


Duolingo, add Cherokee please!

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