Method and Conclusion. See here.
Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.
Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.
Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.
This post will look at the Cherokee language in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.
All Iroquoian languages are extremely difficult, but Athabaskan is probably even harder. Siouan languages may be equal to Iroquoian in difficulty.
Compare the same phrases in Tlingit (Athabaskan) and and Cherokee (Iroquoian).
kutíkusa‘áat – It’s cold outside.
kutíkuta‘áat – It’s cold right now.
In Tlingit, you can add or modify affixes at the beginning as prefixes, in the middle as infixes and at the end as suffixes. In the above example, you changed a part of the word within the clause itself.
doyáditlv uyvtlv – It is cold outside. (Lit. Outside it is cold)
ka uyvtlv – It is cold now. (Lit. Now it is cold.)
As you can see, Cherokee is easier.
Cherokee is very hard to learn. In addition to everything else, it has a completely different alphabet. It’s polysynthetic, to make matters worse. It is possible to write a Cherokee sentence that somehow lacks a verb. There are five categories of verb classifiers. Verbs needing classifiers must use one. Each regular verb can have an incredible 21,262 inflected forms! All verbs contain a verb root, a pronominal prefix, a modal suffix and an aspect suffix. In addition, verbs inflect for singular, plural and also dual. For instance:
ᎠᎸᎢᎭ a'lv'íha You have 126 different forms: ᎬᏯᎸᎢᎭ gvyalv'iha I tie you up ᏕᎬᏯᎸᎢᎭ degvyalviha I'm tying you up ᏥᏯᎸᎢᎭ jiyalv'ha I tie him up ᎦᎸᎢᎭ I tie it ᏍᏓᏯᎸᎢᎭ sdayalv'iha I tie you (dual) ᎢᏨᏯᎢᎭ ijvyalv'iha I tie you (pl) ᎦᏥᏯᎸᎢᎭ gajiyalv'iha I tie them (animate) ᏕᎦᎸᎢᎭ I tie them up (inanimate) ᏍᏆᎸᎢᎭ squahlv'iha You tie me ᎯᏯᎸᎢᎭ hiyalv'iha You're tying him ᎭᏢᎢᎭ hatlv'iha You tie it ᏍᎩᎾᎸᎢᎭ skinalv'iha You're tying me and him ᎪᎩᎾᏢᎢᎭ goginatlv'iha They tie me and him etc.
Let us look at another form:
to see I see myself gadagotia I see you gvgohtia I see him/ tsigotia I see it tsigotia I see you two advgotia I see you (plural) istvgotia I see them (live) gatsigotia I see them (things) detsigotia You see me sgigotia You see yourself hadagotia You see him/her higo(h)tia You see it higotia You see another and me sginigotia You see others and me isgigotia You see them (living) dehigotia You see them (living) gahigotia You see them (things) detsigotia He/she sees me agigotia He/she sees you tsagotia He/she sees you atsigotia He/she sees him/her agotia He/she sees himself/herself adagotia He/she sees you + me ginigotia He/she sees you two sdigotia He/she sees another + me oginigotia He she sees us (them + me) otsigotia He/she sees you (plural) itsigotia He/she sees them dagotia You and I see him/her/it igigotia You and I see ourselves edadotia You and I see one another denadagotia/dosdadagotia You and I see them (living) genigotia You and I see them (living or not) denigotia You two see me sgninigotia You two see him/her/it esdigotia You two see yourselves sdadagotia You two see us (another and me) sginigotia You two see them desdigotia Another and I see you sdvgotia Another and I see him/her osdigotia Another and I see it osdigotia Another and I see you-two sdvgotia Another and I see ourselves dosdadagotia Another and I see you (plural) itsvgotia Another and I see them dosdigotia You (plural) see me isgigoti You (plural) see him/her etsigoti They see me gvgigotia They see you getsagotia They see him/her anigoti They see you and me geginigoti They see you two gesdigoti They see another and me gegigotia/gogenigoti They see you (plural) getsigoti They see them danagotia They see themselves anadagoti I will see datsigoi I saw agigohvi
Number is marked for inclusive vs. exclusive, and there is a dual. 3rd person plural is marked for animate/inanimate. Verbs take different object forms depending on if the object is solid/alive/indefinite shape/flexible. This is similar to the Navajo system.
Cherokee also has lexical tone, with complex rules about how tones may combine with each other. Tone is not marked in the orthography. The phonology is noted for somehow not having any labial consonants.
However, Cherokee is very regular. It has only three irregular verbs. It is just that there are many complex rules.
Cherokee is rated 5.5, close to most difficult of all.
0 thoughts on “A Look at Iriquoian Languages and the Cherokee Language”
Some missionaries must have been very gifted linguistically if they managed to learn such difficult languages.
No kidding! These languages are nuts!