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iPhone Now Supports Cherokee

IOS 4.1, the latest software release for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, adds support for a new language: Cherokee. Now, all but the oldest iPhones are capable of using the Cherokee syllabary to send and receive text messages. In addition, now that Cherokee is supported, it will be easier for the Cherokee Nation to develop and release Cherokee-language apps.

iPhone users can access the Cherokee keyboard via the “international keyboard” option in the keyboard settings. Once the keyboard has been added to the device, it’s easy to toggle between Cherokee and English when using the phone.

Apple’s decision to include Cherokee is important because it makes it easier for the tribe to teach their children to use the language. As Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith explained to the Native American Times:

“People communicate differently today. Including our language on the iPhone and iPod makes it accessible to more people, especially our youth.  This is critical to the survival and growth of our language.” Read more

Earliest Known Example of Cherokee Alphabet Found in Cave

According to the New York Times, carvings found in a cave in Kentucky are the earliest known examples of the Cherokee alphabet. The Cherokee alphabet is a syllabary devised by Sequoyah, a well-known Cherokee silversmith and soldier. Sequoyah observed how European settlers used writing to communicate, and was inspired to devise a similar system for his native Cherokee language.
The carvings found in the cave don’t spell anything. Instead, they are just a series of symbols, similar to the handwriting primers you may have used to practice your penmanship in school. This suggests that the carver was practicing forming the shapes of the letters in the wall of the cave. In addition to the letters, there is also a date, but it’s blurry. It could be either 1818 or 1808. If it’s 1808, the syllabary would have been in a very early stage of development, and the letters were probably carved by Sequoyah himself. If it’s 1818, the letters could have been carved by one of Sequoyah’s students, but it would still beat the earliest known example of the syllabary by at least a year.
Sequoyah’s wife destroyed some of his early work on the syllabary because she thought it was “the devil’s work,”  according to the New York Times article. However, he was able to teach the alphabet he developed to many of his fellow Cherokee, and they soon outpaced their white neighbors in literacy. The alphabet is still in use today.  One of the cool things that Kenneth B. Tankersley, the professor who discovered the carvings, hopes to learn is the degree to which some of the characters in the alphabet are related to ancient Cherokee glyphs.

According to the New York Times, carvings found in a cave in Kentucky are the earliest known examples of the Cherokee alphabet. The Cherokee alphabet is a syllabary devised by Sequoyah, a well-known Cherokee silversmith and soldier. Sequoyah observed how European settlers used writing to communicate, and was inspired to devise a similar system for his native Cherokee language.

earliest known examples of the Cherokee alphabet

The carvings found in the cave don’t spell anything. Instead, they are just a series of symbols, similar to the handwriting primers you may have used to practice your penmanship in school. This suggests that the carver was practicing forming the shapes of the letters in the wall of the cave. In addition to the letters, there is also a date, but it’s blurry. It could be either 1818 or 1808. If it’s 1808, the syllabary would have been in a very early stage of development, and the letters were probably carved by Sequoyah himself. If it’s 1818, the letters could have been carved by one of Sequoyah’s students, but it would still beat the earliest known example of the syllabary by at least a year.

Sequoyah’s wife destroyed some of his early work on the syllabary because she thought it was “the devil’s work,”  according to the New York Times article. However, he was able to teach the alphabet he developed to many of his fellow Cherokee, and they soon outpaced their white neighbors in literacy. The alphabet is still in use today.  One of the cool things that Kenneth B. Tankersley, the professor who discovered the carvings, hopes to learn is the degree to which some of the characters in the alphabet are related to ancient Cherokee glyphs.

Now, Search Google in Cherokee

As part of its efforts to preserve endangered languages, Google just released a new search option: Cherokee.

The new search page allows people who speak Cherokee to search the Internet in Cherokee from any computer. You don’t need a special keyboard to type your query out, either – just click on the keyboard icon in the search box, and a virtual keyboard with the Cherokee syllabary on it will appear. Sweet!

In a press release,  Cherokee Nation Language Technologist Joseph Erb said:

“Translators from Cherokee Nation were eager to volunteer to help make this project a reality, including Cherokee speaking staff, community members and youth. We now have the power and knowledge of the Internet accessible in our own language. With these tools we are building for Cherokee tomorrow.” Read more

The Cherokee Language

In parts of the United States today, including Tennessee, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, road signs are marked with unfamiliar symbols that don’t correspond to English letters. Passing through these areas, you may wonder what the symbols mean.

In all likelihood, you are looking at signs written in the Cherokee language, a remarkable example of linguistic resilience. In spite of 100 years worth of efforts to stamp it out, there are still approximately 22,000 native Cherokee speakers alive today.

How did they manage to preserve their language?

Read more