Cherokee Phoenix


Published March, 18, 1829

Page 3



Mr. Elliot, in studying the language of the Indians of Massachusetts, found that some of their words consisted of a great number of syllables. The greatest number in any of his specimens I do not recollect, and have none of them before me; but they can hardly exceed the length of some of the Cherokee verbs, when carried out into those forms which express the greatest variety of circumstances. The following is an example.

(verb in Cherokee Syllabary)

Written in Roiman Characters it is:


If the English reader would attempt to pronouince it; let him remember to give to a the sound which it has in father; to e sound in tete-a-tete; to i that in pin or in pique; to o that of aw; and to v the French sound of un.

This word consists of seventeen syllables. It signifies, as nearly, perhaps as can well be expressed in English.

They will, by that time, have nearly done granting favors from a distance to thee and me.

I will attempt to analysze the word. The first syllable, wi, denotes that the subject of the verb is at a distance. The next, ni, implies that some other future event has been spoken of, and denotes the accomplishment of the action expressed by the verb as soon as that other even shall occur, as we say -- by that time. The syllable do denotes that the action of the verb is distributive, -- to thee and to me, each separately. The syllable di, indicates the plurality of the object of the verb, -- that more than one [favor] is granted. I have included the word favors in brackets because the noun is not implied in the verb, but only the circumstance of its plurality. The next syllable, ge, denotes the person and number of the subject of the verb, they. The two syllables, gi-na, indicate the persons and number of the recipients, thee and me. Three only, li-sko-le, are radical and unchargeable. The next, da, changes with the modes and tenses, but is not particularly significant. The syllable no conveys the idea of the finishing of the action, they will have nearly done granting. The syllable ne is equivalent to the preposition to in English, granting to thee and me. The two next, li-di, signify nearly or rather about to -- they will have nearly finished, or will be about to finish. The termination su-sti express futurity.

This example will show that, if Cherokee words are long, their length is not disproprotionate to their significancy. It is by such means that this language dispenses with a multitude of the small words which occuring in others. Among the rest it set aside prepositions entirely, no such part of speech being found in the language.