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ERIC Number: EJ936103
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jul
Pages: 27
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 55
ISSN: ISSN-0741-0883
The Cherokee Syllabary: A Writing System in Its Own Right
Cushman, Ellen
Written Communication, v28 n3 p255-281 Jul 2011
Informally recognized by the tribal council in 1821, the 86-character Cherokee writing system invented by Sequoyah was learned in manuscript form and became widely used by the Cherokee within the span of a few years. In 1827, Samuel Worcester standardized the arrangement of characters and print designs in ways that differed from Sequoyah's original arrangement of characters. Using Worcester's arrangement as their sole source of evidence, however, scholars and Cherokee language learners have misunderstood the syllabary by viewing it through an alphabetic lens. Drawing on 5 years of ethnohistorical research, this article opens with a brief history of Sequoyah's invention to show the ways Worcester's rearrangement bent the Cherokee writing system to the orthographic rules of the Latin alphabet, thus obscuring the instrumental logics of the original script. Next, a linguistic analysis of the Cherokee writing system is presented in an effort to recover its instrumental workings. Adding a new perspective to research on American literacy histories in general and scholarship on the Cherokee syllabary in particular, the author argues that the Cherokee language demands a writing system uniquely Cherokee, one practiced outside of an alphabetic influence and capable of representing underlying meaning and sound with each character. (Contains 1 table and 2 figures.)
SAGE Publications. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320. Tel: 800-818-7243; Tel: 805-499-9774; Fax: 800-583-2665; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A