The Cherokee Alphabet And How To Use It
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.
Writing in Cherokee symbols if you've never heard of a syllabary before
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.
Recommended books about Cherokee writing:
Let's Learn Cherokee Syllabary:
Excellent workbook for learning to read and write in Cherokee letters.
Good Cherokee textbook for sale, including information on the written Cherokee language.
A good Cherokee dictionary, with all words printed in Cherokee characters as well as the English alphabet.
Here are some websites with further information about the Cherokee alphabet:
Writing Your Name In Cherokee: Instructions on how to use Cherokee syllabary characters to write English names.
Cherokee Syllabary and Sounds: Audio files of each Cherokee Indian symbol being pronounced.
Cherokee Writing Lesson: Step by step lessons in handwriting Cherokee characters.
Cherokee Font: Unicode fonts of Cherokee Indian symbols for Mac and Windows.
Tsalagi (Cherokee) Syllabarium: Detailed linguistic information on the Cherokee writing system.
Cherokee Indian Syllabary: Wikipedia article with historical context about the Cherokee Indians and their written language.
Sequoyah And His Syllabary: History of the Cherokee alphabet and its inventor, the Cherokee scholar Sequoyah.
Sequoyah: Biography of Sequoyah (also known as Sequoya or George Gist), who invented this style of written Cherokee.
Learn more about the Cherokee language
Back to our Amerind Languages homepage
Go on to our Cherokee facts for kids
Indian art pictures
Indian love stories
Tribal tattoo designs
Would you like to sponsor our work on the Cherokee Indian language?