How the Cherokee language has adapted to texts, iPhones

Cherokee syllabary

Whenever a new communication technology was introduced into society, the Cherokee people have ensured that their written language could adapt.

From the printing press and the typewriter to today's readily available digital technologies like computers and smart phones, the Cherokee language is fully functional thanks to the help of tireless advocates and activists.

As one of the most actively used native languages in the US, the Cherokee language is spoken by populations in North Carolina and Oklahoma, as well as other states across the country. While more people are now able to write the Cherokee language with syllabics — written characters that each represent a syllable — retaining and encouraging more speakers of the language continues to be a high priority. And the use of technology has been one way to attract increased interest.

A new animated video produced by the Cherokee Nation Education Services and the Language Technology Program tells the story of this adoption of new technologies over time. Narrated by the Cherokee hero Sequoyah, who created the first Cherokee syllabary in 1821, the video introduces viewers to some of these breakthroughs.

The Cherokee Nation Language Technology Program supports those interested in utilizing written Cherokee, with a special focus on digital technology. Its aim is to create “innovative solutions for the Cherokee language on all digital platforms including smartphones, laptops, desktops, tablets and social networks.” Available on its website are resources including a glossary of neologisms for technology-related termskeyboard layouts and fonts.

Communication technology is constantly evolving, and the Cherokee language keeps evolving right along with it.

A version of this story was cross-posted at Global Voices, a community of 1,200 bloggers and reporters worldwide.

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