The Cherokee Alphabet And How To Use It
Writing in Cherokee symbols if you've never heard of a syllabary before
We get a lot of confused email asking how to use the Cherokee alphabet, so here is a tutorial that should hopefully
clear things up for beginning Cherokee language learners.
First, the Cherokee alphabet is technically not an alphabet at all, but a syllabary. That means each Cherokee symbol represents
a syllable, not just a consonant or a vowel. So using the English alphabet, the Cherokee word ama ("water") is written with three
letters:a, m, and a. Using the Cherokee syllabary, the same word is written with only two characters,
and (pronounced "a" and "ma.")
For this reason, Cherokee symbols are usually arranged in chart form, with one column for each Cherokee vowel and one row for
each Cherokee consonant. Here is a picture of the Cherokee syllabary chart:
So if you're looking for the Cherokee symbol for "li," you go down the chart to the "L" row (fourth from the top) and across to
the "I" row (third from the left.) Except for "s" (), every Cherokee syllable begins with
a consonant and ends with a vowel (some have a "silent i," but you don't need to worry about that yet,) so it's very easy to
get the hang of.
Note that for Cherokee, as for English, symbols are written left to right.