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The Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee language is named after its people, the Cherokee nation. It is a member of the Iroquoian language family, and it is the only Southern tribal language of this group that is still used. The Cherokee language is associated with the South because its speakers reside in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Most people know of the Cherokee by way of the Trail of Tears. Basically, it was the American enforcement of relocation for all Native American tribes in the 1800s. Countless Cherokees died during this process.

As for the language, Cherokee is a speech rich in syllabary, but you may be surprised to learn that it does not have values for the English letters "p" and "b". The consonant "m" is also a recent. Some symbols of the language look like Latin letters (but don't sound anything like them), and whereas the English alphabet only has six vowels, the Cherokee language boasts twelve, both short and long. The Cherokee alphabet or syllabary has a total of eighty-five character strings. Tsa-la-gi ("Cherokee" to natives) is a complicated dialect in that each verb can take on thousands of inferred forms.

Many words are translated as phrases to the English ear; i.e., the word attorney is branded as "one who argues repeatedly on purpose for a purpose" in Cherokee. The Cherokee are not exempt form adopting a few English terms of their own, however, similarly to how the English language has taken foreign lingo like R.S.V.

P. (répondez s'il vous plaît) under its wing. They also have slang. Cherokee in today's world is comprised of two major dialects: the Giduwa and the Otali.

The main difference is that the Northwestern Cherokee use tl sound while the Southeastern employ ts. Whichever the dialect, the language is spoken by approximately 20,000 or so individuals throughout the Cherokee Nation. The term "Cherokee" itself has been spelled at least fifty different ways in the past (the current spelling dates back to about the eighteenth century). Its literal translation is "people with another language". Aniyunwiya, or "the principal people", is what the Cherokees called themselves in the beginning.

Most Cherokees are not raised bilingually today, but as they get older, most opt to learn English. There are many resources online if you are interested in learning Cherokee yourself. It won't be the easiest process, however, as Cherokee is quite different from English.

Jacob Lumbroso is a world traveler. He writes articles on history and languages and has used Pimsleur courses to learn various languages.

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