Updated 7 August, 2017 • tags scriptnotes, cherokee
This page provides basic information about the Cherokee script. It is not authoritative, peer-reviewed information – these are just notes I have gathered or copied from various places as i learned. For similar information related to other scripts, see the Script comparison table.
Click on red text examples or highlight part of the sample text to see a list of characters. Click on the vertical blue bar (bottom right) to change font settings for the sample text.
Ꭰꮿꮩꮈ 1 Ꮒꭶꮣ ꭰꮒᏼꮻ ꭴꮎꮥꮕꭲ ꭴꮎꮪꮣꮄꮣ ꭰꮄ ꭱꮷꮃꭽꮙ ꮎꭲ ꭰꮲꮙꮩꮧ ꭰꮄ ꭴꮒꮂ ꭲᏻꮎꮫꮧꭲ. Ꮎꮝꭹꮎꮓ ꭴꮅꮝꭺꮈꮤꮕꭹ ꭴꮰꮿꮝꮧ ꮕᏸꮅꮫꭹ ꭰꮄ ꭰꮣꮕꮦꮯꮣꮝꮧ ꭰꮄ ꭱꮅꮝꮧ ꮟᏼꮻꭽ ꮒꮪꮎꮣꮫꮎꮥꭼꭹ ꮎ ꮧꮎꮣꮕꮯ ꭰꮣꮕꮩ ꭼꮧ.
Ꭰꮿꮩꮈ 2 Ꮒꭶꮫ ꭰꮒᏼꮻ ꭴꮎꮣꮒꮬ ꮎꭲ ꮒꭶꮣ ꭴꮒꮂ ꭲᏻꮎꮫꮑꮧꭲ ꭰꮄ ꮩꭿ ꭰꮥꮧꭲ ꮎꭲ ꮥꭶꭷꮕꭹ ꭿꭰ ꮧꭶꮓꮳꮃꮕꭲ, ꭴꮎꮴꮅꮫ ꮔꮎꮰꮿꮝꮫꮎ ꮎꭲ ꮒꭶꭵꮙ ꮷꮣꮄꮕꮣ, ꮥꭷꮑꭲꮝꮤꮕꭿ ꮷꮎꮣꮄꮕꮣ ꭰꮒᏼꮻ, ꮧꭸꭶꭶꮕꮧꭲ, ꭰꭸꮿ ꭰꮄ ꭰꮝꭶꮿ, ꭶꮼꮒꭿꮝꮧ, ꮷꮎꮑꮅꮧ, ꮧꮎꮩꭹꮿꮝꭹ ꭰꮄ ꮠꭲ ꮎꮒꮅꮝꭼꭹ, ꭰᏸꮅ ꭴꮎꮩꮲꭿ ꭰꮄ ᏼꮻ ꮒꮩꮣᏻꮎꮣꮄꮕꭹ, ꮔꮕꮏꮕ, ꭴꮥꮕ ꭰꮄ ꮠꭲ ꮔꮝꮧꮣꮕꭲ. Ꭴꮧꮧꮲꭲꭸꮝꮩꮧ, ꮭ ꮔꮎꮰꮿꮝꮫꮎ ꭴꮩꭿᏻꮢꮎ ꮎꮝꭹꮓ ꮧꮎꮩꭹꮿꮝꭹ ꮒꮣᏻꮅꮝꮩꮤꮕ ꮎꮝꭹ ꭴꮩꮲꮕꭲ, ꭲᏻꮎꮫꮑꮅꮣꮝꮧ ꭴꮒꮂꭹ ꭰꮄ ꭰᏸꮅ ꮪꮎꮩꮲꮢ ꮔꮝꮧꮣꮕ ꮎꮝꭹ ꮒꭼꮎꮫꭲ ꭰꮄ ꮝꭶꮪꭹ ꮎꮝꭹꮓ ꭰꮒᏼꮻ ꭰꮎꮑꮈꭹ, ꭲᏻꮓꮝꮚ ꮎꮝꭹꮎꭲ ꭴꮎꮣꮴꮅꮣ, ꭶꭸꭶꮕꮨ ꭸꮢꭲ, ꭼꮒꭼꭼ-ꭴꮹꮢ-ꭴꭶꮞꮝꮧꮥꭹ ꭽꮻꮒꮧꮲ ꮒꭶꭵ ꮠꭲ ꮕꮒᏺꭲꮝꮣꮑꮂꮎ ꮎꭲ ꭴꮒꮂ ꭴꮎꮣꮴꮅꭶꮿ.
ᎠᏯᏙᎸ 1 ᏂᎦᏓ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎤᎾᏕᏅᎢ ᎤᎾᏚᏓᎴᏓ ᎠᎴ ᎡᏧᎳᎭᏉ ᎾᎢ ᎠᏢᏉᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎲ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏗᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᎾᏃ ᎤᎵᏍᎪᎸᏔᏅᎩ ᎤᏠᏯᏍᏗ ᏅᏰᎵᏛᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏟᏓᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎡᎵᏍᏗ ᏏᏴᏫᎭ ᏂᏚᎾᏓᏛᎾᏕᎬᎩ Ꮎ ᏗᎾᏓᏅᏟ ᎠᏓᏅᏙ ᎬᏗ.
ᎠᏯᏙᎸ 2 ᏂᎦᏛ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎤᎾᏓᏂᏜ ᎾᎢ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎤᏂᎲ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏙᎯ ᎠᏕᏗᎢ ᎾᎢ ᏕᎦᎧᏅᎩ ᎯᎠ ᏗᎦᏃᏣᎳᏅᎢ, ᎤᎾᏤᎵᏛ ᏄᎾᏠᏯᏍᏛᎾ ᎾᎢ ᏂᎦᎥᏉ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ, ᏕᎧᏁᎢᏍᏔᏅᎯ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ, ᏗᎨᎦᎦᏅᏗᎢ, ᎠᎨᏯ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ, ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ, ᏧᎾᏁᎵᏗ, ᏗᎾᏙᎩᏯᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏐᎢ ᎾᏂᎵᏍᎬᎩ, ᎠᏰᎵ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᎯ ᎠᎴ ᏴᏫ ᏂᏙᏓᏳᎾᏓᎴᏅᎩ, ᏄᏅᎿᏅ, ᎤᏕᏅ ᎠᎴ ᏐᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅᎢ. ᎤᏗᏗᏢᎢᎨᏍᏙᏗ, Ꮭ ᏄᎾᏠᏯᏍᏛᎾ ᎤᏙᎯᏳᏒᎾ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏗᎾᏙᎩᏯᏍᎩ ᏂᏓᏳᎵᏍᏙᏔᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏙᏢᏅᎢ, ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᎲᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏚᎾᏙᏢᏒ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎬᎾᏛᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎠᎾᏁᎸᎩ, ᎢᏳᏃᏍᏊ ᎾᏍᎩᎾᎢ ᎤᎾᏓᏤᎵᏓ, ᎦᎨᎦᏅᏘ ᎨᏒᎢ, ᎬᏂᎬᎬ-ᎤᏩᏒ-ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏗᏕᎩ ᎭᏫᏂᏗᏢ ᏂᎦᎥ ᏐᎢ ᏅᏂᏲᎢᏍᏓᏁᎲᎾ ᎾᎢ ᎤᏂᎲ ᎤᎾᏓᏤᎵᎦᏯ.
Cherokee is a syllabary. Letters typically represent a combination of consonants and vowels.
Text is normally written horizontally, left to right, and the visual forms of letters don't interact. There are no combining characters or diacritics.
There is no standard spelling. The way a word is written may vary, according to the pronunciation of the writer, or choices they make for dealing with consonant clusters.
Words are separated by spaces.
For more information see ScriptSource, Wikipedia or Omniglot.
Lowercase characters were introduced in Unicode 8.0, to cover growing use of bicameral content in modern typesetting, as well as some older texts such as the Cherokee New Testament. The lowercase text above is likely to be displayed as tofu (boxes), since it is currently difficult to find a font that includes lowercase forms.
It is unusual for the majority of content to be in uppercase, and for lowercase to come in later, and implementers may need to take care in introducing the new characters. For example, Cherokee case-folds to uppercase, rather than lower. For more details see the Unicode Standard.1
This sample text is repeated. The left-hand sample is all uppercase, the right is mixed. The shapes of the upper- vs. lower-cased letters don't change (as they do in Latin or Cyrillic). The lowercase letters are simply smaller.
ᎤᎾᏕᏅᎢ vs. Ꭴꮎꮥꮕꭲ
Spoken Cherokee has tones, but they are not shown in the text.1
There are 85 characters in the syllabary, of which 6 represent syllables that start with either no consonant or with ʔ (ᎠᎡᎢᎣᎤᎥ), and one character represents the non-syllabic consonant sound s (Ꮝ). The rest nominally represent a combination of consonant plus vowel, though the actual practise is a little more nuanced, and there is a degree of vagueness in the script when it comes to phonetically transcribing spoken sounds.2
The six vowel characters, when they appear at the start of a word represent plain vowel sounds, eg. ᎠᎹ ama a-ma water.
Elsewhere they represent a syllable starting with ʔ, eg. ᎯᎠ hiʔa hi-a this.2
The vowel in a CV syllable doesn't distinguish between short and long vowel sounds, nor does it indicate tonal values, eg. ᎠᎹ ama a-ma water and ᎠᎹ aːma a-ma salt are written the same, although the vowels are of different lengths and the tones (low vs high, respectively) are different.2
Each character may not only end with a vowel, but may also end with ʔ or h, eg. ᏑᏗ suhti su-di fishhook and ᏔᎵ tʰaʔli ta-li two are written with just two characters.
There is one distinctive pair related to syllables ending with h: Ꮎ na is contrasted with Ꮐ nah.
Syllables that end with an s sound can be written using Ꮝ [U+13CD CHEROKEE LETTER S], eg. ᎯᏴᏫᏯᏍ hijə̃ːwiːjaːs hi-yv-wi-ya-s Are you an Indian? 2
Only 6 syllable pairs distinguish between aspirated and non-aspirated sounds at the start of a syllable.
Only one nasal syllable makes this distinction, ie. ᎬᎾ kə̃ːna gv-na I'm alive versus ᎬᎿ kə̃ːhna gv-hna she's alive. However, ᎬᏂᎭ gv-ni-ha could be either kə̃ːniha I'm striking it or kə̃ːhniha gv-ni-ha she's striking it.
There are five pairs of characters that make this distinction for stops or affricates: Ꭶ+Ꭷ, Ꮣ+Ꮤ, Ꮥ+Ꮦ, Ꮧ+Ꮨ, Ꮬ+Ꮭ. For example, it is possible to distinguish between the first two syllables of ᎧᎦᎵ kʰaːkaʔli ka-ga-li February, but not between the two meanings of ᎪᎳ go-la, ie. koːla winter and kʰoːla bone.2
With one exception, consonant clusters are managed by using a normal syllabic character but ignoring the ('dummy') vowel, eg. ᎦᎵᏉᎩ kaɬkʷoːki ga-li-quo-gi seven or ᎬᏙᎠ ktʰoːʔa gv-do-a it's hanging. The character chosen is largely up to the writer, but some words bring in etymological connections.
The exception is Ꮝ [U+13CD CHEROKEE LETTER S], which is not followed by a vowel, eg. ᏍᎪᎯ skoːhi s-go-hi ten.2
Some manuscripts precede syllables beginning with an s sound with Ꮝ [U+13CD CHEROKEE LETTER S], and Sequoyah spelled his name like that, ie. ᏍᏏᏉᏯ s-si-quo-ya.
Cherokee uses standard Latin punctuation.1
In some cases, it has been known for full stops to be raised above the baseline.2
Sequoyah, the inventor of the script, created a set of Cherokee numbers, but they were not adopted and are not encoded in Unicode.1 The shapes of the numbers can be seen on the Omniglot page.OG
Justification is done, principally, by adjusting the space between words.
Use the control below to see how your browser justifies the text sample here.
Ꮒꭶꮫ ꭲꮷꮃꭽꮙ ꭲꭼꮿꮨꮯ ꮎꮝꭹ ꮧꭷꮏꮹꮫꮝꮧ ꭰꮄ ꭴꮎꮣꮒꮬꮕꭲ ꮕꮰꮿꮝꮫꮎ ꮒꭶꭵ ꭰꮣꮫᏻꮴꮧ ꮎꮝꭹ ꭲꮷꮃꭽꮙ ꭼꮹꮒꮝꮥꮈꮩꮧ ꮎꮝꭹ ꮧꭷꮏꮹꮫꮝꮧ. Ꮒꭶꮣ ꭴꮎꮣꮒꮬꮕꭲ ꭲꮷꮃꭽꮙ ꭼꮹꮒꮝꮥꮈꮩꮧ ꮧꭼꮹꮎꮱꮧꮝꭹ ꮒꭶꭵ ꭰꮣꮫᏻꮴꮧ ꮎꮝꭹ ꭰꮝꭶꮕꭼꭲ ꭿꭰ ꮧꭶꮓꮳꮃꮕꭲ ꭰꮄ ꮧꭼꮹꮎꮱꮧꮝꭹ ꭰꮄ ꮒꭶꭵ ꮣꮣꮪꮄꭼ ꮎꮝꭹ ꭲᏻꮝꮧ ꭰꮣꮫᏻꮴꮧ.
The Cherokee script characters in Unicode 8.0 are spread across 2 blocks (not counting shared characters, such as punctuation):
The following is an incomplete list of languages and the number of characters they use, per version 31 of CLDR's lists of characters (exemplarCharacters).
Click on the links to see a list of characters with names.
|Main||ꭰ ꭱ ꭲ ꭳ ꭴ ꭵ ꭶ ꭷ ꭸ ꭹ ꭺ ꭻ ꭼ ꭽ ꭾ ꭿ ꮀ ꮁ ꮂ ꮃ ꮄ ꮅ ꮆ ꮇ ꮈ ꮉ ꮊ ꮋ ꮌ ꮍ ꮎ ꮏ ꮐ ꮑ ꮒ ꮓ ꮔ ꮕ ꮖ ꮗ ꮘ ꮙ ꮚ ꮛ ꮜ ꮝ ꮞ ꮟ ꮠ ꮡ ꮢ ꮣ ꮤ ꮥ ꮦ ꮧ ꮨ ꮩ ꮪ ꮫ ꮬ ꮭ ꮮ ꮯ ꮰ ꮱ ꮲ ꮳ ꮴ ꮵ ꮶ ꮷ ꮸ ꮹ ꮺ ꮻ ꮼ ꮽ ꮾ ꮿ ᏸ ᏹ ᏺ ᏻ ᏼ||85|