Cherokee/Survey of Resources

There are several third party websites with Cherokee instructional materials. Unfortunately, these resources are incomprehensive and largely ignore key phonological distinctions such as vowel length and tone.

Instead of these, I recommend the Cherokee Nation’s resources, downloadable from its website, including the preliminary course See, Say, Write and the beginners’ course We Are Learning Cherokee. These resources have fewer inaccuracies, but they once again largely ignore vowel length and tone. Thus, my prescription is to use the PDFs and the recordings only for reference, as following the courses too closely would instill bad habits such as ignoring tone or having a myopic view of the conjugation system.

Another such resource is Michael Joyner’s Cherokee Language Lessons, but this should also be taken with a grain of salt, as I have been told by a Cherokee linguists student that there are concerning inaccuracies in the curriculum.

For easy reference, I have uploaded the aforementioned three PDFs into the folder, and I recommend the learner start by skimming all three of these textbooks. Do not spend longer than an hour doing this.

After skimming these textbooks, I recommend reading the Wikipedia article for the Cherokee language: There are some issues in Romanization, and some of the information is too technical for the beginner, so do not force yourself to comprehend everything, for all of the information will be presented more accessibly in other resources, including the rest of this document.

Next, I recommend spending some time familiarizing yourself with the Cherokee English Dictionary (CED). In the folder you will find a PDF of it. I highly recommend reading the introduction in its entirety. The author, the late Durbin Feeling (1946 – 2020), is undoubtedly the greatest contributor to the preservation and revitalization of Cherokee. He has helped with adding the Cherokee syllabary to Unicode, and he has published numerous other resources related to the language.

The CED’s introduction is 12 pages long and is a primer on pronunciation, including tones, and an explanation of the layout of entries in the dictionary. One need not be able to produce the tones correctly yet, but it is important to develop a decently good understanding of Feeling’s conventions for marking them. Also pay attention to his conventions for indicating vowel length. Another important thing to understand is Feeling’s entries for verbs. The citation form is the third person singular present continuous form. In the introduction, Feeling explains that he includes five further subentries for each citation form to account for all stems of the verb. In reality, the specific subentries he chose are not the most efficient way of representing the principal parts of the Cherokee verb. Nonetheless, they suffice for now. A discussion on this issue will be found in the “5 Stems” subsection of this document under the “Basic Construction of the Verb” section. It has much to do with Feeling’s view of the language as a native speaker, which contrasts with a more analytical view adopted by linguists who are not native speakers.

After reading the introduction, flip through the Cherokee-English portion of the dictionary and familiarize yourself with Feeling’s orthographic conventions by trying to read the entries. Also note that the example sentences lack any marking for vowel length and tone, which is quite annoying. Feeling left out these indications to save himself time. Nonetheless, the CED as it is is crucial to all other linguists’ understanding of the language, and great reverence for Feeling’s efforts is due. (I also must thank the editor William Pulte and the Cherokee Nation for publishing and disseminating this book.)

You will find that the English-Cherokee section is smaller. This is a section merely to help you locate entries in the Cherokee-English section.

In the back of the CED is a rather condensed grammar sketch of Cherokee. My scan is a subpar way to view this section. Instead, I recommend perusing the online version of this section at This version makes for a much better reading experience.

I would not recommend reading the entire grammar sketch as a learning tool. It is better suited as a quick reference. Much of the material is presented without enough explanation and will cause you to have more questions than answers. For a more thorough grammar of Cherokee, I would turn to Brad Montgomery-Anderson’s Cherokee Reference Grammar (2015). I do not have this particular edition, but in the folder I have included a PDF of the 2008 edition, A Reference Grammar of Oklahoma Cherokee. This is an older edition and has some typos and other issues, but for the most part it is rather straightforward and comprehensive. I do not recommend reading the reference grammar cover-to-cover, but rather using it as just that, a reference grammar. The table of contents at the beginning will guide you to the desired section, and for each chapter there is a detailed table of contents that will pinpoint where a discussion of a specific grammatical feature can be found. Be aware that Brad Montgomery-Anderson (BMA) uses an orthography with significant differences from that of the CED, and it will take some time for you to become accustomed to it.

Another indispensable resource for Cherokee learners and linguists alike is the Cherokee-English Dictionary Online Database at This project was initiated by Tim Nuttle and compiles words from nearly 2 dozen dictionaries and word lists, including the Cherokee English Dictionary. Be aware that if you search for a word, it is likely that the entry you are looking for will not show up on the first page, as the listing of entries containing the keyword is alphabetical, not by best match. Thus, you will have to be patient and use the “Next >>” link to navigate to the desired entry. Also, since the database compiles entries from different sources, which have different orthographic conventions, you must mentally prepare yourself for the moderate diversity in spelling practices and often, the lack of tone or even vowel length indications.

To summarize, I recommend that the new learner start learning Cherokee by following this plan:

  1. Skim the three course PDFs.
  2. Read the Wikipedia article about the Cherokee language.
  3. Read the CED introduction thoroughly.
  4. Flip through the Cherokee-English section to internalize the Feeling orthography.
  5. Skim the grammatical sketch from the CED online.
  6. Accustom oneself to the layout of the BMA reference grammar.
  7. Come back and read the rest of this document.