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  • What's a Syllabary?

    Sequoyah, a Cherokee Indian with ties to Georgia and Oklahoma, created a system of writing for an unwritten language in 1819. Eventually Sequoyah devised what’s known as a syllabary. Within months of its introduction, much of the Cherokee Nation became literate.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Explain what makes Sequoyah so unique in the literate world.

    2. Describe the impact literacy can have on communities. 

    Expansion

    1. Each language has its own unique structure for writing. Invite a speaker of another language to talk to your class about his/her language and the way it's written. (To show the most contrast, try to choose a language that does not use a the Latin alphabet such as Chinese, Russian, Greek, Arabic or Japanese.)

    Vocabulary

    literate: able to read and write
    syllabary: a set of written characters representing syllables and (in some languages or stages of writing) serving the purpose of an alphabet
    diphthong: a sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable, in which the sound begins as one vowel and moves toward another

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Explain what makes Sequoyah so unique in the literate world.
    Sequoyah was the first person in recorded history to create a system of writing for an unwritten language. Within months of introducing the Cherokee syllabary, much of the Cherokee population became literate. 

    2. Describe the impact literacy can have on communities. 
    With the ability to read and write, people are able to record their thoughts and feelings. These recordings or writings then have the ability to be shared with others, allowing for ideas to spread quickly. Stories that are spread orally rather than written down often lose their original details or meanings. 

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