r/todayilearned 8d ago All-Seeing Upvote 1 Take My Energy 1 Narwhal Salute 1

TIL the Cherokee writing system was made by one man, Sequoyah. It's one of the only times in history that someone in a non-literate group invented an official script from scratch. Within 25 years, nearly 100% of Cherokee were literate, and it inspired dozens of indigenous scripts around the world.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoyah
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u/Gemmabeta 8d ago

Here is a copy of the Cherokee Phoenix from 1828, the first Native American newspaper printed in a Native language in America.

https://www.cherokeephoenix.org/site/about.html

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u/Pfeffer_Prinz 8d ago edited 8d ago

and the first bilingual newspaper in the US!

EDIT: [SAUCE]

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u/NorthernerWuwu 8d ago

Was it actually? Huh, I would have thought Louisiana might have had a French-English paper earlier.

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u/greener_lantern 8d ago

Nah. The two didn’t really get along that well.

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u/Bowlffalo_Soulja 8d ago

Louisiana English 50 years ago: we're going to literally beat the cajun French out of yall. We only speak English here

Louisiana English today: geaux tigers, we love our "cajun" culture :D

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u/KN_Knoxxius 8d ago

Amazing how people and culture changes on a generational basis

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u/Bowlffalo_Soulja 8d ago

It really is amazing. My grandmother's first language was cajun French. Apparently a lot of people still spoke it when she was a kid. However, teachers stopped letting it be spoken in schools to get the cajuns onto English. If they got caught speaking it at school, they would get paddled. The language almost died within one generation.

Luckily there are some linguists working within the few pockets it's still spoken to preserve. Problem is now it's kind of watered down with English so we probably won't get the whole dictionary so to say. And the English can't distinguish creole from cajun so everything got blended.

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u/-bigErgodicEnergy 8d ago

Mais oua! Much love from a Gautreaux y'all

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u/longtimelurkerthrwy 8d ago

Similar case for my grandmother; she's from New Iberia. She even majored in French so she can speak Cajun French, standard French and English. It is very jarring when we would go down south and she would switch between languages. On the plus side, I can definitely understand any Cajun accent. I'm so glad to see it's being preserved.

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u/texasrigger 8d ago

TX had it's own German dialect and entire regions spoke German predominantly until there was a concentrated effort to purge it during WWI. There are only a handful that still speak TX German today.

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u/Zvenigora 8d ago

Parts of northeast Iowa were once similar, I understand.

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u/Ada_Parker0810 8d ago

They tried to save some of it by pushing French classes in school... that teach Standard French.

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u/EpsomHorse 8d ago

They tried to save some of it by pushing French classes in school... that teach Standard French.

I know that sounds stupid, but it was of necessity -- there were no Cajun French textbooks or other teaching materials in existence, and no French teacher anywhere had learned to teach Cajun French.

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u/ElDorado_Xanadu 8d ago

Dude we had a trilingual paper. New Orleans Bee published in French, English, and for a time Spanish.

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u/kennyk1994 8d ago

There is still a trilingual paper in the USA believe it or not! La Gaceta in Ybor City in Tampa Florida is still printed in English, Spanish, and Italian.

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u/ElDorado_Xanadu 8d ago edited 8d ago

L’Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orléans, or the New Orleans Bee, began adding an English languange section in 1827. They are both weirdly related when one thinks on it: in New Orleans it was a sign of encroaching Americanization twentyish years after the Lousiana Purchase, the Cherokee paper out West a response to assimilation as well.

EDIT: source from the LOC that the New Orleans Bee had a bilingual French and English newspaper beginning on Nov. 24, 1827

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u/wilwith1l 8d ago

the Cherokee paper out West

The paper was printed in modern-day Georgia, before the Indian Removal Act.

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u/theblastoff 8d ago

It's still in regular print today! We get one every other week

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u/Mugwort87 8d ago

Glad its still in regular print. Its important to preserve different languages.

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u/theblastoff 8d ago

Yeah, it's very cool. I never knew the publication itself was so old. It's mostly written entirely in English now, but there are some articles written in Cherokee.

As a side note, Cherokee Nation as a whole is doing a huge language preservation push; we just built a brand new language center dedicated to Cherokee language courses.

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u/Africa-Unite 8d ago edited 8d ago

Remarkable achievement aside, it sucks to see the anti-black discrimination in Article III, Section 3 4. Seems our blood was tainted no matter where it wound up 😞

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u/truthofmasks 8d ago

The Cherokee were famously allied with the Confederacy a few decades later.

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u/self_soother 8d ago

From Cherokee point of view, the Union (Jackson) was evil. They joined the confederates mostly because of the gov lies, trail of tears, forced assimilation, murder, theft of their property. They hated the Union. At least that's what I've read. But also before that, they had already assimilated with the south, took Christian names, and they were business owners who did own slaves.

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u/Cole-Spudmoney 8d ago

They joined the confederates mostly because of the gov lies, trail of tears, forced assimilation, murder, theft of their property.

And, y'know, because they were slaveholders.

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u/EquationConvert 8d ago

So were some states that didn't join the confederacy, such as Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. West Virginia had slaves, but seceded from Virginia to join the Union.

I think it's very important to highlight that the primary cause of the Civil War was southern political leader's extreme commitment to slavery above all other principles of government. But that doesn't mean it was the only thing going on.

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u/Zefrem23 8d ago

If only history would conform neatly to modern ideas and values, it would just make studying it so much less awkward and triggering.

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u/Colosseros 8d ago

Yeah, an inconvenient truth about the Trail of Tears is the massive number of slaves the indigenous people brought with them, as they were forced west.

It's icky and doesn't fit in our modern conception of race, or lumping all POC with each other as something separate from "white culture."

Also, the guy giving this speech owned slaves... https://youtu.be/4852GHBYv5c

Andre Callioux is one of the most interesting American lives that ever existed. Born a slave. Freed. Owned slaves. Joined the confederacy as the first black officer on either side, then switched sides after the occupation of New Orleans by the Union. Died a Union hero at Port Hudson in battle.

He was used as propaganda in the north after his death, and it is recorded that black union soldiers would shout "Remember Port Hudson!" as a battle cry. And then he was buried in New Orleans as a hero to the city, when the Union occupation of the city was considered extraordinarily unjust.

He must have truly been a special individual. Basically celebrated by both sides in the conflict, and then more or less forgotten by history later. I won't even argue that he never made a speech like the one in the movie. I just think he was deeply human and complicated, like the rest of us.

To me, his life perfectly represents how complicated and nuanced history really is. His death, which robbed us of an opportunity to read his autobiography, to me, is one of the greatest losses to history I know.

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u/Zefrem23 8d ago

Petty self-interest, shortsightedness and plain old fear don't really make for interesting reading, and the lens of history is set to macro mode for the most part, so one often loses perspective that people are just people, as blind to reality and screwed up as us at our worst, and yet capable of such compassion and depth at the same time. Funny things, humans.

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u/notherenot 8d ago

White people didn't invent the slaves, they were just recently most successful with the applied concept

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u/Chuccles 8d ago

The cherokee and and some others were ok with slavery. But other like the seminoles were reaaaaaally against it

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u/badluckprince 8d ago

This is also a generalization of Cherokees as a whole. Factions of Cherokees fought for the Union and some fought for the Confederacy. There are tons of stories of Cherokee families fighting each other over it. This schism in cultural ideas still has reprecussions today in our culture.

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u/Minimum_Cantaloupe 8d ago

"The Committee shall consist of two members from each District, and the Council shall consist of three members from each District, to be chosen by the qualified electors of their respective Districts for two years, and the elections to be held in each District on the first Monday in August for the year 1828, and every succeeding two years thereafter; and the General Council shall be held once a year, to be convened on the second Monday of October in each year, at New Echota?"

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u/ATL-East-Guy 8d ago

If you are ever traveling through north Georgia on I-75, check out New Echota. It’s the original site of the Cherokee capital that is now a state park about 1 min off the interstate in Calhoun.

It’s a fantastic museum and has tons of period buildings you can walk through. I believe they even have the Cherokee Phoenix printing press, although it may just be a period correct press.

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u/clip_clop86 8d ago edited 8d ago

I live just a few miles from New Echota and I believe that the printing press there is a historical recreation, but I could be wrong because it has been around 10 years since the last time I visited. If folks are interested in New Echota, they should also check out the Chief Vann House in Chatsworth. It is about a 20-25 minute drive north on highway 225 from New Echota.

EDIT: New Echota is located off of exit 317 on I-75 in Georgia.

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u/hurhurdedur 8d ago

You're right that it's a historical recreation. I remember seeing it back in around 2000-2001.

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u/TheConnASSeur 8d ago edited 8d ago

Just a little clarification for those interested. OP is talking about the Eastern Band of The Cherokee. There are 3 main groups of Cherokee: The Cherokee Nation, which consists of around 383,000; The United Keetoowah Band, which consists of around 14,000, and The Eastern Band of The Cherokee, which consists of around 13,000. When most people talk about The Cherokee Capital they're thinking about Tahlequah Oklahoma.

And the Cherokee Phoenix is a real paper that continues to be published to this day. It publishes in both Cherokee and English. Check it out: Here

edit: My mistake I could have sworn OP said New Echota was the capital, as in present tense.

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u/clip_clop86 8d ago edited 8d ago

The OP is semi-correct. New Echota was the capital before it was forcibly moved to Oklahoma.

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u/JarJarJarMartin 8d ago

The Eastern Band still lives in the ancestral Cherokee territory.

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u/Ezev3 8d ago

Yeah we do!

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u/K1LL3RM0NG0 8d ago

If you go further north up I75 to Loudon, TN they have a museum dedicated to Sequoyah specifically. That part of the state has a lot of areas named after and tributes to different historical native Americans.

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u/predsfan77 8d ago

It’s his birthplace. In vonore TN

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u/Rhom_Achensa 8d ago

Imagine walking from there to eastern Oklahoma. That’s the Trail of Tears.

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u/Ezev3 8d ago

The tribe does rememberance rides every year, with bicycles.

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u/RKRagan 8d ago

I was driving through Cherokee, NC and saw road signs with a second language posted under the English. I thought it was Cyrillic on first glance and then realized I had never seen it before. Then the obvious hit me and I realized I had never heard of a North American native written language before. Google led me down the rabbit whole and I was fascinated. It’s beautiful really.

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u/kramerica_intern 8d ago

The characters are really cool. I wish it was more prevalent here in Western North Carolina.

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u/Pfeffer_Prinz 8d ago edited 8d ago

posted this yesterday but it was taken down for tenuous evidence about his biographical stuff. In any case, here's more interesting info (including some of the stories):

  • Technically, it's not an alphabet, it's a syllabary; that means each symbol doesn't represent a sound, but a whole syllable (i.e. a combination of consonants & vowels).
  • Despite having 85 symbols to learn, the Cherokee system is immensely easier to adopt (for speakers of the language) than most alphabets, since all possible sounds are represented clearly.
  • "The Cherokee student could accomplish in a few weeks what students of English writing might require two years to achieve" [Wikipedia].
  • The design of the symbols (called syllabograms) was influenced by the shapes of letters in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic, and Glagolitic (the oldest Slavic alphabet). But the sounds are completely unrelated — Sequoyah didn't know how to read any language (before his own).
  • After working for over a decade, Sequoyah finished this system in 1821. In 1825 it was adopted as the official Cherokee script. By 1830, 90% of Cherokee were literate, and by the 1850s it was nearly 100%.
  • In 1828, the Cherokee got a printing press and launched the Cherokee Phoenix, printed in both English & Cherokee. This was the first bilingual newspaper in the US [NatGeo], and it was free for any Cherokee [Wikipedia). It's still around today!
  • Story time (tenuous evidence): Sequoyah traveled across the land, teaching the system to Cherokee everywhere. Most tribes were doubtful, so Sequoyah would ask each leader to say a word, which he wrote down, and then called his daughter in to read the words back. He was then allowed to teach it to a few students — they were still suspected of witchcraft until the students demonstrated the same reading ability. This took months, but the language soon spread widely.
  • After the syllabary was officially adopted by the Cherokee in 1825, Sequoyah set up a blacksmith shop. He still taught the writing system to anyone who asked.
  • His work inspired the development of at least 21 scripts around the world, used to write more than 65 languages — from Cree, to other indigenous groups in Canada, to Bassa in Liberia, to other West African languages, and even one in China.
  • The Sequoia tree was possibly named after him. Some people question this, but the person who named the tree (Stephan Endlicher) was also a linguist, so he probably knew about Sequoyah, who was famous in linguist circles.

EDIT: from u/excited_to_be_here :

If anyone is interested, /u/DiplomacyPunIn10Did added a Cherokee Syllabary alpha set to the KAT Napoleonic mechanical keycap project:

https://diplomacyvariants.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/24-alphas-cherokee-sequoyah.png

https://nopunin10did.com/kat-napoleonic/

and here they are in action: https://i.imgur.com/ybddYKq.jpg

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u/Gemmabeta 8d ago edited 8d ago

"The Cherokee student could accomplish in a few weeks what students of English writing might require two years to achieve"

When King Sejong and his scholars invented the Korean Alphabet (which was another script, like Cherokee, that was created from linguistic first principles to fit the language), he declared that:

A wise man may acquaint himself with them before noon; a stupid man, ten days.

Which feels like a real classy burn against the Chinese Characters they had to make do with before.

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u/highbrowshow 8d ago

There was initial pushback when Hangul was introduced because there were other already more established alphabets. But Hangul was easier to learn and ultimately won out because of its simple design

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u/IRefuseToGiveAName 8d ago

Hangul is so easy to learn. I took two Korean electives in college, and I can still remember the alphabet all these years later. A friend of mine likes to joke even if I can't speak it, I could still read a newspaper to a blind man.

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u/alQamar 8d ago

I learned arabic and it’s the same. I’ve lost almost all vocabulary but could definitely read it to someone.

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u/oneeighthirish 8d ago

Arabic looks gorgeous, too

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u/DiligentHelicopter54 8d ago

I love the look of Arabic! I’m almost afraid to learn it and ruin its aesthetic.

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u/i-d-even-k- 8d ago

Don't be. Arabic is unironically the prettiest script on Earth, regardless of what you think of the language or religion or cultures. It is no wonder the main art form of the Arabic world for a long time was calligraphy!

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u/FuckingKilljoy 8d ago

I think they meant that their handwriting is shit lol, but I agree with your point

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u/DiligentHelicopter54 8d ago

That’s exactly what I meant lol

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u/whirled-peas 8d ago

Could you? I feel like the fact that written Arabic usually omits the vowels means you’d have to already know the words to be able to read them correctly. On the other hand, Devanagari (the script used to write Hindi and Sanskrit) is beautifully consistent, very simple and easy to learn as far as phonetic writing systems go.

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u/alQamar 8d ago

There are patterns for word types. But some forms aren’t even properly identifiable when you know the word (passive forms are often hard to catch). It’s a challenge for sure.

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u/TrueSchwar 8d ago

It’s actually a lot more complicated than that. I have a video in my profile the goes over the history of writing systems in Korea and Japan.

But the gist of it for Korean is that even after Hangul was invented, Idu and Classical Chinese were still the official scripts used in government. It wasn’t until the 1890’s/1900’s that Korea switched from Classical Chinese and Idu to a mixed script Hangul Hanja system, where any Sino-Korean word was written in Hanja, and the rest in Hangul.

It wasn’t until after WWII, with Korean liberation, that Hangul only became a thing due to Nationalist sentiment. Now the idea of writing Hangul only in Korea existed before the Japanese occupation, but became so much stronger after due to Hanja, and mixed script in general, became associated with Japanese influence. So that nationalist drive to “purify” the language, plus much the of the people being illiterate, meaning they didn’t have a close attachment to Hanja, leads us to today, where Korean is written in Hangul. Though Hanja still exists, and there are people advocating bringing back a mixed script.

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u/airblizzard 8d ago

mixed script in general, became associated with Japanese influence

This is so interesting. I never knew Korean had this.

Though Hanja still exists, and there are people advocating bringing back a mixed script.

I understand this. As a Japanese student I hated learning kanji, but reading is actually much faster with a mixed system.

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u/IWasGregInTokyo 8d ago

Hangeul would be easier to read if there was a form of the script for loan words like the way katakana is used in Japanese.

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u/blargfargr 8d ago

it didn't ultimately win out for design reasons. koreans themselves stopped using it for centuries in favor of chinese characters, and it was only officially used in the mid 20th century for nationalistic reasons.

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u/my-name-is-puddles 8d ago

I dunno that I'd really say "for design reasons". The main reason is that Chinese characters had already been and continued to be the writing system of scholars. Hangul was for the peasants, and no self-respecting scholar would write in that peasant scratch. Also, Hangul was actually banned in Korea multiple times; the peasants can't write bad things about the government if they can't write at all, so they banned the script that was easier to learn without spending a lot more time studying, effectively banning lower classes from writing/reading.

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u/Dramatic_Original_55 8d ago

Thumbs up for the Hangeul reference!

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u/love-from-london 8d ago

Yeah, once you know the alphabet, Hangeul is surprisingly easy to read. Still have to learn what words mean, but you can at least figure out the loanwords.

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u/iostream64 8d ago

I remember some language learning site said that out of the three East Asian languages Korean was the most difficult to learn despite having the easiest writing system.

Is that true?

I heard Chinese grammar was actually pretty simple but the characters plus the pronunciation and it being a tonal language make it extremely difficult for new learners.

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u/ReallyGuysImCool 8d ago

As someone whos learned both - spoken Korean is a lot harder than spoken standard Mandarin. But being literate is a pretty important part of life too lol so it's pretty hard to say what the hardest east Asian language is. Also spoken Chinese dialects/languages (not necessarily mandarin) varies much more than Korean.

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u/AStrangerSaysHi 8d ago

As a Korean learner, I was blindsided when I first heard jejueo. Literally didn't understand why I couldn't understand anyone.

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u/ReallyGuysImCool 8d ago

Ha, yeah true. Just watched a clip. But just by virtue of size and regional history, the chances of you meeting a Chinese person who's first language is a dialect non-intelligible with Mandarin is much much higher than in Korean. I looked up jejueo and there's only ~5000 native speakers. Eventually standard mandarin will probably take over China completely too but it's still a big hurdle in learning and communicating in Chinese

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u/AStrangerSaysHi 8d ago edited 8d ago

I wasnt trying to disagree btw. I was just giving a personal anecdotal example. While I was in college at yonsei everyone always told me how beautiful jejudo was so I visited just expecting all korean to be at least mostly similar because it's so small.

I heard all the familiar sounds, and every now and then I'd catch like a word and I was just like internally thinking "how do I... just... I should be understanding them, right?"

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u/dragmehomenow 8d ago

It's simple, relatively speaking, but it's still a pain in the ass compared to other languages.

In English, it's one snake, one horse, one cat. In Mandarin, it's 一条蛇,一匹马,一只猫. It turns out you classify nouns and indicate you're measuring them with a specific word. For example, snakes (蛇) are measured as 条, but horses 马 are measured as 匹.

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u/ultimatetrekkie 8d ago

Probably not a 1:1 comparison, but the way it was explained to me was to think of English phrases like "Two sheets of paper" or "10 head of cattle."

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u/dragmehomenow 8d ago

Yup! There's actually an internal logic to how these nouns are categorised, but most native speakers (like me) internalise it as a kid, so we struggle to explain it. Like, I think 条 generally refers to things that snake on the ground, like snakes, ropes, and rivers, but I'm sure someone who studied Chinese grammar will correct me on this.

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u/PM_ME_UR_POKIES_GIRL 8d ago

As a native English speaker and an American I know intellectually that English is just as obtuse in many ways, but I nonetheless recoiled in horror at what you just described.

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u/dragmehomenow 8d ago

条 can also be used for lives (一条命), but I have no idea why! It might imply that lives are long and thin and snake-like.

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u/TheChance 8d ago

English is obtuse in pidgin ways, half a millennium though it’s been. Standard Chinese is obtuse in “you should see the old version” ways.

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u/nihaopengyou 8d ago

When I first started learning I was so confused. It’s different because every word has it’s own measure word but similar to English like ‘a pack of dogs’, ‘two flocks of birds’.

English you can just say ‘three pens’ or ‘ three tables’ but in Chinese they have different measure words 三支笔 san zhi bi three pens and 三张桌 san zhang zhuo three tables

The zhi and zhang are the different measure words. When in doubt you can default to 个 ge for everything but it’s pretty basic. I recently saw a meme of the people around the table pointing swords to the middle and the outside was all the measure words and the middle point was 个 lol

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u/incer 8d ago

I mean, you guys are taught spelling as kids because hearing a word often doesn't tell you enough to transcribe it properly, and vice versa.

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u/nihaopengyou 8d ago

I’m native English and have studied Chinese for a long time/lived there/programs taught in mandarin etc and it took so long to kinda internalize like you instead of just brute memorization. Now I’m like duh 张 is for flat-ish things like tables or paper lol

But you’re definitely right about the categories for measure words. If you’re ever curious I recommend the Pleco app and if you scroll to the bottom for the character info it should tell you what it generally applies to.

For 条 it says “for things with a long narrow shape” and gives 河 and 鱼 as two examples. I guess if you consider all fish to have a long narrow shape it works haha

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u/Ah_Q 8d ago

My favorite is that 条 can also apply to dogs.

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u/chetlin 8d ago

The interesting thing there is that the measure word for cows in Chinese is also the word for head, so you do literally say "10 head of cattle" for both languages. It's 十頭牛/十头牛

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u/DiscoHippo 8d ago

That'd why I sound like a toddler and just use "ge" for everything

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u/Owltimer 8d ago

Based 个 appreciator

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u/dferrantino 8d ago

Is this a safe spot to complain about "er" vs "liang"?

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u/qpqwo 8d ago

No. "Er" is a noun, "Liang" is an adjective. Be free

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u/dailycyberiad 8d ago

And about whether to use "了"?

I need a support group or something.

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u/DiscoHippo 8d ago

If it happened in the past, then sometimes it's right to use.

Sometimes.

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u/[deleted] 8d ago

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u/Chimie45 8d ago

Both Japanese and Korean do this as well, Korean not as much as Japanese or Chinese though.

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u/mrsegraves 8d ago

I took Mandarin through all 4 years of college. Chinese grammar is insanely easy. It always felt closer to (really easy, basic) math than a language. You just plug and play. The hard part is learning tones

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u/ShakaUVM 8d ago

Mandarin is a simple and easy to learn language, kind of a pain to memorize the characters in the writing system. Korean is the opposite, the writing is really easy to learn, but Korean as a language is hard.

Japanese decided to combine both and get the worst of both worlds. You have to memorize all the characters, and both their Chinese and Japanese pronunciation, and you also have to do conjugation.

Chinese has effectively no conjugation (just the le particle to indicate completion mainly), so you just write the character. But in Japanese if you want to be -ING (study-ING) something then you write the character, conjugate the ending to the て form, add an いる after (the -ING suffix) then conjugate the ている based on politeness and tense and etc. (私は勉強しています)

Mandarin, you just add a 在 to the sentence to indicate you are -ING it (我在學習)

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u/Chimie45 8d ago edited 8d ago

As a note Korean grammar is the same as Japanese.

공부 하다 > 공부 하고 > 공부 하고 있다 > 공부 하고 있습니다.

Or to put it into Japanese if you don't know Korean,

勉強する > 勉強して > 勉強してる > 勉強しています

Like it's quite literally step by step the exact same grammar.

As someone who is fluent in both, I will say I agree 100%. Korean is much harder than Japanese.

Edit (as a note to all replying, I meant in the process here for this conjunction the grammar is the same, not entirely across the whole language, albeit it is quite similar across large swathes)

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u/RandyDandyHoe 8d ago

If the writing is easier and the grammar is the same, why's korean harder?

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u/badmartialarts 8d ago

Pronunciation is way harder in Korean. (in my opinion)

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u/deirdresm 8d ago

Which is odd given that Hangul is based on mouth position to make the sound.

But it’s like sheet music: “This will get you in the ballpark, but is not an accurate representation of the sequence of sounds.”

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u/towa-tsunashi 8d ago

Negative conjugation is different in Korean though.

As someone who has Chinese/Japanese family and has at least 2 years of learning in all 3 languages, I also would say that Korean is the hardest of the East Asian languages. I love the writing system but everything past that is extremely difficult, even knowing Japanese grammar and Chinese/English loanwords.

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u/mrsegraves 8d ago

See, this is why Mandarin is the shit-- no conjugation. You use the same exact verb no matter what the nouns are. If it's past tense, you just slap a very easy character (了)after the verb or at the end of the sentence. You want to say you're actively doing something? Just slap a 在 before the verb and you're golden. Makes things much easier when you don't have to learn conjugations on top of pronunciation, tones, and characters

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u/PM_ME_UR_SHEET_MUSIC 8d ago

I actually think it makes it harder. It's easier in simple sentences, sure, but all of the work the verb endings and case particles are doing in Japanese/Korean has to be done by syntax alone in Chinese, which can quickly get very confusing. I much prefer synthetic languages to analytical ones for this reason.

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u/dimensionpi 8d ago

Well it's "literally" the same grammar up to a certain level/breadth.

So my confidence is rewarded when using Korean and Japanese grammar interchangeably 90% of the time.

Then 10% of the time I end up letting a big error through without realizing 😢

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u/Poiuy2010_2011 8d ago

and both their Chinese and Japanese pronunciation

To be clear, not the actual Chinese pronunciation but a "japanified" one loaned at some point in time. Knowing Chinese beforehand wouldn't help you that much in this department.

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u/PartyCurious 8d ago

The Chinese grammar is similar to English compared to Spanish in someways. Bai jiu. Would be White Alcohol in English where the the adjective comes first. I think Chinese pronunciation is easier than Vietnamese. Vietnamese is easier to read as it uses a type of alphabet. Reading in Chinese was impossible for me while in Vietnamese I suck but can get some sounds down. Some people pick up these tonal languages. I don't and feel Chinese and Korean are easier to understand than Vietnamese or Thai.

I learned while in China "chow me in" is the same as Americans say "chow main". Americans spell it right "chow mein" but say it wrong. Chow is fried, mein is noodle. Fried noodles. They don't have s on end of word if more than 1, also easy for grammar.

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u/Wonderful_Delivery 8d ago

I’m English Speaking Canadian but lived in Taiwan for a while so I speak fair Mandarin, no reading etc but I remember when I first arrived I saw some won-ton noodle place and went to order and was saying it the English way ‘ Wan-tawn’ and the lady was like ‘wtf are you saying , and then a customer said ‘ he wants wun-twun ‘ . First time I realized that being from Vancouver I probably pronounce it like Cantonese style or just the way we say it in the English world.

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u/-Vayra- 8d ago

I would consider Chinese and Japanese harder languages to learn, at least to read/write. Korean has some difficult pronunciation, compared to Japanese which at least to me is super easy to pronounce. Grammar-wise I don't there's a huge difference between them in terms of difficulty.

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u/DUKE_LEETO_2 8d ago

Yeah while this is really cool, I realized it is more akin to opera singers being able to sing in many languages using a phonetic alphabet than learning a language. You still have to learn the definition of words and the whole grammatic structure.

Another example is that I can read most Spanish words, but that doesn't mean I know what they all mean. Or be able to use them in a different sentence.

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u/tektite 8d ago

Immediately what I thought about when I read this article, and I have to admit Hangul is badass looking.

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u/excited_to_be_here 8d ago

If anyone is interested, /u/DiplomacyPunIn10Did added a Cherokee Syllabary alpha set to the KAT Napoleonic mechanical keycap project:

https://diplomacyvariants.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/24-alphas-cherokee-sequoyah.png

https://nopunin10did.com/kat-napoleonic/

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u/Pfeffer_Prinz 8d ago

wow cool! gonna add this to my main comment

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u/AJ_Mexico 8d ago

The interesting part for me was that the reason Sequoyah had trouble getting the elders to approve his system was that not only were they illiterate, they were also unfamiliar with the concept of a written language and had to be convinced that there was such a thing. This is why he had to do the trick with getting his daughter to read back what was written.

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u/atomfullerene 8d ago

Glagolitic

That's gotta be coincidence, right? Or was there some settlement of Serbians in Georgia that I don't know about?

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u/dangerbird2 8d ago

He got written material from missionaries written in different languages. Presumably, he had access to Bible translations written in Greek, Hebrew, and Church Slavonic, all of which would be fairly available to a seminary-educated preacher at the time. Crucially, he couldn't actually read any of it, which is why the Cherokee syllabary is so unique

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u/Gemmabeta 8d ago edited 8d ago

Another thing was that Sequoyah was also inspired by the printed word. He wanted his language to cross over to mechanical printing immediately, so he was somewhat constrained to letter-shapes that are already available in print-shops (hence a lot of Latin/Greek letters, rotated letters, letters with a small serif added, and such).

His original conception of the Syllabary was considerably more "florid", but I doubt that would be easily printable--and making the printing dies would have cost a fortune.

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u/whoami_whereami 8d ago

and making the printing dies would have cost a fortune.

Yeah, it was sort of bad timing for developing a new font for printing. During the 16th century the market for typefaces had been saturated with high quality products to the point that in the 17th and 18th century the art of punchcutting was almost lost again due to lack of demand. In 1818 when the British needed a new small typeface for anti-counterfeiting measures on bank notes there were only four or five people left in England that could do it. And it was only from mid-19th century onwards when new technologies like electrotyping in the 1840s and especially pantograph engraving in 1880 came along that replaced manual punch cutting and made creating letter punches (which were the basis for making casting moulds for movable types) a lot easier.

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u/Firewolf420 8d ago

Damn, kinda makes you wish that they had that as a font now in modern times, for it. Now that the printing press is no longer a restriction.

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u/MNHarold 8d ago

Might be something from academia, like texts in the different languages?

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u/JostlingAlmonds 8d ago

And Andrew Jackson was still a dick and ordered us removed.

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u/CoolCatInaHat 8d ago

...despite being told by the supreme court he couldn't..

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u/MNHarold 8d ago

Well of course! Got to make way for the people, not the...nah I'm not even going to say that for the meme lol.

Ain't history fun? You get to find out all about famous cunts!

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u/3Dartwork 8d ago

In the irony, Jackson just wanted them gone so he could acquire massive amounts of land for basically free that was suitable for cotton growing and sell those acres to Southerners for massive profits.

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u/g00fyg00ber741 8d ago

Well, he also believed they were lesser than white people, and he threatened and bribed them to either assimilate or relocate. I don’t think it was just for the land, I think he also was racist against them pretty clearly.

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u/Teutiaplus 8d ago

Also, there was gold in them there hills.

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u/Ovi-wan_Kenobi_8 8d ago

I’d never seen Cherokee script until today. Very interesting. I’m sure it’s coincidence, but many of the symbols resemble Armenian letters.

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u/Pfeffer_Prinz 8d ago edited 8d ago

Interestingly, the Armenian alphabet was also invented by one person! (Mesrop Mashtots, c. 405 AD). Except in that case, Armenians were literate — they just used Greek, Persian, and Syriac scripts.

Still fascinating! especially the letter shape coincidence — never noticed that before!

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u/mrsmetalbeard 8d ago

If you ever drive through the city of Cherokee, Tennessee all the municipal street signs and a lot of business signs are written in both languages. Great museum and hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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u/desertedlemon 8d ago

Yeah it's a really cool place. Cherokee is in North Carolina, however. I highly recommend stopping by if anyone is passing through the area.

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u/mrsmetalbeard 8d ago

Ooh, good catch. I just remembered it was close to Gatlinburg Tennessee (which also has a great aquarium) but Cherokee is in fact in North Carolina.

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u/theflyingfucked 8d ago

Pretty much in the course of a single decade the Cherokee nation in GA created a written language, started a free press, ratified a constitution, established a capitol and were more literate than surrounding poor whites

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u/hungry4danish 8d ago

10 TIL's in 1 post!

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u/djmagichat 8d ago

This is wildly interesting

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u/Catswagger11 8d ago

Sounds like it could be a good movie.

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u/respondin2u 8d ago

In Oklahoma, elementary school books are often awarded “Sequoyah books” and are often presented on accelerated reader lists.

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u/panstuckyo 8d ago

I must assume this is something awesome! But I actually have no idea what you are saying. It’s kind of ironic… or unironic, I don’t know, I don’t read good.

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u/Sheyren 8d ago

Basically standout books for younger audiences receive this award and as a result are recommended for children who are more advanced at reading. If I'm understanding it correctly.

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u/respondin2u 8d ago

Sorry I’m not sure how to explain it but basically these books would be awarded this prestige and these would be books kids could read over a year and get a special reward at the end of the year if they read them all.

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u/GreedyLack 8d ago

I remember doing the challenge in elementary school where you had to read a certain amount of Sequoyah books to go on a trip if we’d accomplished the goal amount read.

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u/FrenchFreedom888 8d ago

Some more information:

Every State in the US has their own system of awards for books they give each year. Oklahoma's is called the Sequoyah Award, and has chosen books annually since 1959. There are three categories, Children's, Intermediate, and High School, each with their own "master list" of 15 (I think) books.

I remember at my elementary then middle school in Oklahoma, if you read at least three of the books on your grade level's respective list for that year, then you would get to vote for your favorite from the list. I believe that the winner of the award is still decided by a popular vote like that.

The Sequoyah list has been a great list of good book options for me, as the yearly list's books are almost always at least worth reading, and the winner of the Award is exceptional. I encourage anyone reading this to go check out their own State's award, and I would appreciate it if any of y'all want to share insights you have about your own States' systems!

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u/_BloodbathAndBeyond 8d ago edited 8d ago

My fiancés great aunt worked on a dictionary for their language. She was the last fluent speaker of their native tongue so she spent a lot of time writing it down and getting it all recorded. She died last year though, so no more fluent speakers. Another dead language.

Source: https://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/films/maries-dictionary

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u/Uuugggg 8d ago

So dead that the only reference of it I’ll ever hear doesn’t even mention its name

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u/somefish254 8d ago

Wukchumni (200 ppl left) of the larger Yokut (50,000 left) in central california

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u/pingpongtits 8d ago

That's incredibly sad. Especially that no one learned the language from her. Is it possible for others to take her efforts and learn to be fluent or are young people just not interested in their own culture and history?

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u/_BloodbathAndBeyond 8d ago

It's probably not possible for anyone to ever be as fluent, but there are a lot of dictionaries and recordings of her so it might be possible. But most people don't care since a language only used by like 5 people on Earth is useless.

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u/Southern_Blue 8d ago

There is an immersion language school in Cherokee NC. Enrolled students, mostly little kids, go throughout the school day hearing and speaking nothing but Cherokee.

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u/pingpongtits 8d ago

That wonderful to hear. It's not like a child can't learn multiple languages, especially with immersion.

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u/goldstar_femme 8d ago

Exactly. I am local to the area where the headquarters is located, and we have plenty of language immersion. A great many of my friends are fluent, and I grew up speaking it. Although I am rusty, I can still hold my end of the family gossip. Lol

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u/somefish254 8d ago

What does heritage mean to you and your fiancé? Are you interested in the topic or is more of a curiosity

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u/notyogrannysgrandkid 8d ago edited 8d ago

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend the Cherokee National History Museum in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It’s very well done, from the static exhibits (one of which is about Sequoyah’s syllabary) to the live Cherokee village with artisans demonstrating traditional crafts and aspects of their culture.

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u/didijxk 8d ago

Imagine how much knowledge was lost because these groups lacked a written language. We know what we know about the Celts thanks to the Romans who wrote down their experiences but it's also viewing them through the lens of their enemies.

To read about them on their own terms would be a far more interesting prospect because they may not have been as barbaric as the Romans said they were.

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u/pl233 8d ago

Think of all the Eurasian steppe nomads we know basically nothing about

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u/Xciv 8d ago

Also so many African empires before Arabic scripts showed up that we know nothing about because they transmitted their history and knowledge orally and they didn't build their monuments out of stone.

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u/Legate_Rick 8d ago

There's a lot of that. During the late bronze age there were raiders who attacked civilizations on the coast of the Mediterranean sea. They're only referred to as "sea peoples" other than that historians can only take educated guesses as where they came from.

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u/TaliesinMerlin 8d ago

There are also many groups that had written languages, but those materials were not preserved. The pre-Roman Etruscan language is an example. The Romans tell us that there was Etruscan literature and even plays, but the surviving corpus of written language is small. To your example about the Celts, several Celtic groups like the Gauls and the Picts did use writing, even if larger bodies of work didn't survive.

Some Mesoamerican groups also had written languages long before the Europeans arrived. Olmec, Zapotec, Isthmian, Mayan, and other scripts existed, and some (esp. Mayan) are well-known.

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u/louploupgalroux 8d ago

Me: "It's terrible that we lost all that knowledge."

My Brain: [It's the time travelers. They went back and scooped up all the good stuff. We need to go back to the lab and try harder. First person to make the jump wins.]

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u/z500 8d ago

Sadly, it's all been gobbled up by the Langoliers

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u/Perfect_Wrongdoer_03 8d ago

The Inca also had a writing system, iirc, although a little unusual due to using ropes.

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u/buckleycork 8d ago

In fact the Gauls could actually read and write in Greek but decided that writing their religion and culture and shit was taboo

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u/Darkness_Everyday 8d ago

Osiyo from Big Cabin!

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u/TheBalrogofMelkor 8d ago

Easter Island appears to have briefly developed a writing script after Europeans first visited (debatable - one of the symbols seems to be a tree that went extinct before European arrival).

Seems once people understand the concept of writing down language, it's not too hard for them to make the leap.

They almost only wrote on banana leaves, and writing died out within a few decades, probably because of disease and societal upheaval. This is also when they tore all the moai (Easter Island heads) down. All we have left are like 2 pieces of driftwood.

Unrelated, but the sequoia trees (massive evergreens of the American West Coast) are named for Sequoyah.

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u/IAMTHEUSER 8d ago

Interestingly, the etymology of Sequoia is hotly debated. Some think they’re named for Sequoyah, some think the name comes from the Latin verb Sequor

https://mashedradish.com/2017/01/10/sequoia-a-giant-sized-controversy/

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u/TheBalrogofMelkor 8d ago

How dare my memory of Sequoyah's Wikipedia page that I read one time several years ago lie to me!

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u/tlollz52 8d ago

Hey I remember reading a book about this in 2nd grade. Couldn't remember if I made it up or not.

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u/grizzlyblake91 8d ago

My middle school (in central Oklahoma) was named after him! We learned all about him in middle school history there. I remember being in awe when I found out what he did for the Cherokee people.

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u/Abell421 8d ago edited 8d ago

The Eastern Band of Cherokee has a Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore TN. It's located between the Smokies and the Ocoee if you are ever coming through.

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u/Swimming-Tap-4240 8d ago

Johnny Cash had a song about it.The Talking Leaves.

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u/losjoo 8d ago

From a wonderful concept album speaking out on the mistreatment of Native Americans. Cash faced backlash from fans and radio stations but in typical fashion he didn't back down.

Then there's this, an album excellent covers, here's talking leaves:

https://youtu.be/PYphyWSlk_E

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u/gigiallinhadid 8d ago

Thrilled to see my culture being recognized for our achievements!

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma just opened a language immersion school, the Durbin Feeling Language Center,, where we are now teaching young speakers and the Master Apprentice Program, I believe. The MAP is for adults to solidify their fluency. Something some never thought could be done, and now we’re thriving. Anyone can go online and learn for themselves too!

Our history has ups and downs, but our language is vital to us.

ᏩᏙ (wado, thank you) for sharing!

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u/wapfelite 8d ago

Talk about timing! I've been learning Blackfoot & other regional dialects - I'm going to try applying this, tunsay

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u/Juutai 8d ago

Sometimes I think about the Blackfoot people and I wonder if they have a non English name for themselves.

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u/andrew01292 8d ago

Per Wikipedia “The Blackfoot Confederacy, Niitsitapi, or Siksikaitsitapi[1] (ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ, meaning "the people" or "Blackfoot-speaking real people”

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u/data_ferret 8d ago

It's amazing how many people's names for themselves are simply "the people" or "the real people."

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u/SerasTigris 8d ago

I mean the planet we live on is called 'earth'. It kind of makes sense. When you're the only ones around, you don't exactly need a unique and creative name for yourselves.

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u/IH8Miotch 8d ago

That's because we the people

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u/_Dead_Memes_ 8d ago edited 8d ago

Pretty sure groups only had a need to develop more unique and descriptive names if they were interacting with other ethnicities and groups heavily and frequently. Usually in the context of larger populations, longer distance trade, being united under larger states/kingdoms, and more complex civilization (not saying groups such as the Blackfoot werent “civilized” or “complex”, rather they just weren’t in the sense of dense settled agricultural populations).

So like the northern Mayas developed their name for themselves from the term “mayab” meaning “flat”, I think due to their homeland being relatively flat, and the Mayas were a dense settled agricultural population that engaged in frequent and long distance trade with other groups.

Please correct me if this is wrong tho

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u/Juutai 8d ago

ᖁᔭᓐᓇᒦᒃ, thank you.

Naung, I'm an Inuk and I find that most of what I know about other indigenous people tends to be through the colonizer's lens.

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u/A0ma 8d ago edited 8d ago

They do. Many Indigenous tribes in the US received a French, English, or Spanish name depending on who colonized their region first.
The Spanish gave the names Seminole, Pueblo, etc.
The French gave the names Nez Perce, Gros Ventre, Coeur d'Alene, etc.
The English gave the names Crow, Blackfoot, etc.

It was also common for them to receive a name from a different tribe (usually one that had better relations with the colonizers). Apache comes from the Zuni word for "enemy" and Comanche comes from a Ute word meaning "Those who fight with us."

Here is an incomplete list.

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u/L07 8d ago

I mean, it kind of makes sense why it happened when many native languages refer to themselves as “the people” when translated to English.

So, we’re getting a somewhat egocentric view no matter what.

Comanche? Numunu “the people” Apache? Indé - “Person” or “People” Blackfoot? Niitsapi “the people” Ute? Núuchi-u “the people” Seminole? Yat’siminoli “free people”

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u/UnderstandingSmall54 8d ago

When you do something like this for your people you will be remebered for ever. What an astounding person.

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u/breakfastBiscuits 8d ago

OSDA!

If you'd like to hear it spoken, you can check out the Visit Cherokee Nation Youtube channel. THey have a "Cherokee Word of the Week" playlist here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nr72tsFRQzI&list=PLLAaEbcbNmakT3cHPYMkcA4ORnt10_xwg&index=152

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u/SLR107FR-31 8d ago

My grandmother and her siblings can all speak Cherokee. They had to learn English back in the day and my great grandparents spoke nothing but Cherokee

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u/keanutrees 8d ago

My band Whoa Sequoia wrote a song about this called 86 Characters. Which was the amount of symbols, or characters, in the original system.

Can listen here: https://open.spotify.com/track/6JTGVZTqx7pj3cOlkiCqqB?si=615ca6181dff417f

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u/ButterflyAttack 8d ago

As someone who has studied and applied this shit in a couple of ways, I totally bow to this fucker.

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u/feisty-spirit-bear 8d ago

Korean was also invented from scratch

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u/Gemmabeta 8d ago edited 8d ago

The King of Korea was not illiterate.

The Koreans already had a writing system (Hanja), Sejong just replaced it with a simpler one.

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u/-Vayra- 8d ago

True, but it was still created from scratch, deliberately discarding the ideas of the written language King Sejong already knew (Chinese). It was designed so that even the simplest of farmers could easily learn to read. And he succeeded, it is incredibly easy to learn.

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u/ThePerryPerryMan 8d ago

The people of Korea were largely illiterate though. The only people who were literate belonged to the upper class. Even then, they learned hanja (Chinese script). So, the vast majority of Koreans were illiterate. King Sejong the Great changed this with the introduction of Hangeul.

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u/Thue 8d ago

But necessarily various other writing systems in the dawn of history were made by illiterate people. E.g. cuneiform script - there has to be a first script.

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u/RedditWillSlowlyDie 8d ago

And they did it when they didn't know of other writing systems. This guy used other written languages as a source for his written language.

Sequoyah's final attempt was to develop a symbol for each syllable in the language. Using the Bible as a reference along with adaptations from English, Greek, and Hebrew letters, by 1821 he created 86 symbols, later to be 85 symbols, that depict the syllables of the Cherokee language.

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u/[deleted] 8d ago edited 8d ago

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u/Ryanide1 8d ago

quite a few schools here in Oklahoma are named after this guy

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u/SweatyStrain 8d ago

Had a free subscription to the Cherokee Phoenix last year (we forgot to sign back up this year). They still occasionally run stories in the syllabary - it’s super cool!

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u/jakeblew2 8d ago

Sequoyah seems like a pretty chill guy. I would hang with him

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u/SEND_NUDEZ_PLZZ 8d ago

Afaik, in the history of mankind, writing has been invented 5 times.

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u/lazyfinger 8d ago

After seeing its worth, the people of the Cherokee Nation rapidly began to use his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825. It unified a forcibly divided nation with new ways of communication and a sense of independence. By the 1850s, their literacy rate reached almost 100%, surpassing that of surrounding European-American settlers.

This made me tear up for some reason.

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u/cretaceous_bob 8d ago

Damn this guy was a badass.

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u/Blue-cheese-dressing 8d ago

I grew up near New Echota, if your down that was it’s an interesting visit. Many in Government saw that printing press and the news paper as a threat and the Georgia Guard was actually sent in to confiscate it.

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u/mynameisjebediah 8d ago

Dude got up one day and decided to write his entire language down.

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u/Lovely_Quesadilla 8d ago

If you are ever traveling through north Georgia on I-75, check out New Echota. It’s the original site of the Cherokee capital that is now a state park about 5 min off the interstate in Calhoun

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u/grassiopeia 8d ago

The Museum of the Cherokee in Cherokee NC is a great learning experience and well worth a visit. Last time I was there, they had a syllabary exhibit about the language with many contributing artists, it was exceptional and very interesting. Highly recommend!

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u/haysanatar 8d ago

Fun Fact: The Cherokee weren't originally from the South East, they originated around the great lakes and displaced a few tribes like the Creek and Muskogee. The name Cherokee is actually a creek word that means people of another tongue, AkA "you don't sound like you're from around here".

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u/Squeaky-Fox49 8d ago

Man was an absolute genius.

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u/jaquanthi 8d ago

Let me all introduce you to a lone genius called Tenevil of the Chukchi https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenevil