Syllabary Keypad Developed for Cherokee Language

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To help people communicate in Cherokee, the Cherokee Nation has developed a new Cherokee-specific computer keypad. The keypad was developed by two members of the Cherokee Nation’s Cultural Resources Department, Roy Boney, Jr. and Joseph Erb. The device makes it much easier for people to use computers to communicate in Cherokee. Previously, typing in the Cherokee syllabary was a royal pain, requiring users to memorize a variety of different keystrokes to get the computer to produce Cherokee letters instead of the Latin alphabet.

With the keypad, which fits over a normal computer keyboard, for the first time students and others will be able to type directly in the Cherokee syllabary, which uses its own unique set of 85 characters. The new keypads will make life easier for the students at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School, where children do their lessons completely in Cherokee. It will also make it easier for people to use Cherokee outside of school, in their daily lives, and will make it easier for Cherokee living outside of Cherokee Nation territory to use their ancestral language to communicate.

The Native American Times quotes Dr. Neil Morton, Group Leader for Education Services for the Cherokee Nation, who described the potential impact the invention could have on the Cherokee language:

“The creation of this keypad has helped us leap forward in the teaching of Cherokee. Before we were only able to utilise the print media, but now our students have computers for homework, messages and more where they can actually type and text in the Cherokee language…The role of the keypad allows us to actually move the language initiative program away from the tribal complex and out into every community of the Nation and throughout the world. It also plays an important role in getting people to actually use the language in their everyday lives.”