A: To study Cherokee for the final part of our Linguistic training.
Q: Why are you studying Cherokee? Do people in Papua New Guinea speak Cherokee?
A: No, no one (that we know of!) in Papua New Guinea speaks Cherokee. We’re studying Cherokee in Oklahoma from a linguistic point of view, not to learn to speak Cherokee. We’re practicing all the skills we learned in our linguistic classes last semester — like how to write down the sounds of a language you’ve never heard before, how to develop an alphabet for that language, and how to figure out the grammatical structure of the language. Because Cherokee is a difficult language and we’ve never been exposed to it before, it’s a great language for us to practice our “language analyzing” skills on.
So, we arrived down here in Oklahoma on Friday (8/15), got settled in at the camp we’re staying at, and now we’re diving right into things. Last night, a Cherokee man came to the camp and we took turns asking him to say words like “deer”, “dog”, and “possum” in Cherokee. We wrote those words down using the International Phonetic Alphabet (we write down one symbol for each sound we hear) and now we get to analyze what sounds are in the Cherokee language.
Over the next 7 weeks, we’ll spend 2 hrs a day (5 days a week) with our Cherokee language helper, writing down words and sounds. The rest of our days will be spent preparing for our language sessions, filing recordings and transcribed words (the data we get from our language sessions), then figuring out an alphabet (based on those sounds), and analyzing the grammar of Cherokee (this is the hardest part). After these 7 weeks in Oklahoma, we’ll go back to the New Tribes training center (in Missouri) and spend a few weeks finishing 2 giant write-ups (like term papers) on the Cherokee language (mostly the alphabet and grammar).