LOS HYPKI

Church Planting among the Nahuatl

Two Weeks of ǰʌ’leɡi…

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Osiyo from Oklahoma!  (Osiyo is the traditional Cherokee greeting.)  Liesl usually writes most of these posts.  I’m more the newsletter guy (email us if you’d like to be added to our distribution list!), but I thought I would drop by and give you a little insight about how our language sessions are going.

As most of you know, we arrived in Oklahoma on Saturday, August 29th, to begin our live language practicum studying the Cherokee language.  Why are we here?  Why study Cherokee?

Here’s why:  When we move into an unreached tribal group in Mexico in the next couple years, we will very likely be working with an unwritten language.  By working with the Cherokee here in Oklahoma (or the ǰʌ’leɡi, as they once called themselves), we have the opportunity to practice turning an oral language into a written one.  First, we write what we hear using a phonetic alphabet – one that represents each sound with a different letter.  Then we refine that alphabet so it looks more like what the people believe they are saying.  For example, if someone spelled “phone” as “fone” in English, even though it would be pronounced the same, we would definitely prefer to see it spelled “phone.”  Refining our phonetics will allow us to write the language in a way people prefer and can easily recognize.  After that refining, we will create an official orthography, or written alphabet.

In the tribe, we will then be able to begin translating lessons and the Word into that tribal language. Here, though, since they already have a written language (as seen in the signs pictured below), we will simply write up our findings, turn them into our instructors, and hope for a good grade 🙂

Here is a stop sign outside the Cherokee Nation Complex showing the Cherokee alphabet

Here is a stop sign outside the Cherokee Nation Complex showing the Cherokee alphabet

Anyway…I’ve been meeting with  my Cherokee language helper for two weeks now.  Our helper is a 63-year old Cherokee man.  He actually belongs to the Keetoowah band of Cherokees, which is a more traditional band of Cherokee that seeks to keep their old beliefs and traditions alive.  They also require a higher percentage of Cherokee blood for membership.  Our helper, for example, is 7/8’s Cherokee. He is fun to work with, and knowledgable about the language.  Each time we thank him for his help, he reminds us that we are helping him by helping him to remember the language.  It seems a good exercise for both of us.

A picture of my language helper, my language-learning partner Sam, and me after a session

A picture of my language helper, my language-learning partner Sam, and me after a session

An average session lasts two hours.  We spend the first few minutes talking a bit, before diving into the session.  This week we spent a few days learning different nouns, then learning how to make them plural, or how to add adjectives to describe them. Here is an example of some of the nouns and adjectives we learned:

Phonetics

Literal Translation

Free Translation

dikwʌnyostʰ cɑrds/deck of cards cɑrds
utʌn biɡ biɡ
uwo:tiɡe brown brown
ɑkwʌnyostʰ cɑrd cɑrd
nʌ utʌn ɑkwʌnyostʰ ɑyʌ ɑwʌǰeli that biɡ cɑrd belongs to me my biɡ cɑrd
ɑyʌ utʌn dikwʌnyostʰ ɑyʌ diwʌǰeli those biɡ cɑrds belong to me my biɡ cɑrds
nʌ utʌn uwo:tiɡe ɑkwʌnyostʰ ɑyʌ ɑwʌǰeli that biɡ brown cɑrd belongs to me my biɡ brown cɑrd
ɑyʌ utʌn uniwo:tiɡe dikwʌnyostʰ ɑyʌ diwʌǰeli those biɡ brown cɑrds belong to me my biɡ brown cɑrds

We then spent a few days learning basic verbs, and constructing verb paradigms.  A verb paradigm is where you take the same verb and conjugate it for different actor persons (i.e. I run, you run, he runs, we run, etc).  Here is some of what we found:

Phonetics

Literal Translation

Free Translation

ɡɑLi’hɑ someone is sleepinɡ he is sleepinɡ
hiLi’hɑ you (sɡ) ɑre sleepinɡ you (sg) are sleepinɡ
čitLi’hɑ I am sleepinɡ I am sleepinɡ
dɑni:Li’hɑ they (dl) are sleepinɡ they (dl) are sleepinɡ
destʰiLihɑ you (dl) are sleepinɡ you (dl) are sleepinɡ
deniLi’hɑ we (dl inc) are sleepinɡ we (dl inc) are sleepinɡ
osti:Li’hɑ we (dl exc) are sleepinɡ we (dl exc) are sleepinɡ
ɑni:Lɩt’nɑ they (pl) are sleepinɡ they (pl) are sleepinɡ
iǰi:Lɩt’nɑ you (pl) are sleepinɡ you (pl) are sleepinɡ
idi:Li’hɑ we (pl inc) are sleepinɡ we (pl inc) are sleepinɡ
oǰi:Lɩt’nɑ we (pl exc) are sleepinɡ we (pl exc) are sleepinɡ

Over the remaining five weeks of our language study, we will look at other aspects of the language, beyond nouns and verbs. We will begin to study where verbs and nouns and adjectives go in sentences.  We will look at forming clauses, prepositions, relations between actors in sentences, proper agreement with words, and even paragraph construction and differences between spoken and written language.  The whole time we will be adding even more information, and deepening our understanding of the language.

It sounds like a lot, and it is, but we know that as we study, we are preparing, and being prepared, for our work on the field.  Spending time with a langauge helper like ours is a huge encouragement.  We have fun inside and outside of sessions, and get to see that our training the past two years is very practical.  Thank you for your continued support and prayers as we spend another five weeks here in Oklahoma.

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Author: Liesl Hypki

We are a young couple living in remote Mexico to reach the Nahuatl people for Christ.

3 thoughts on “Two Weeks of ǰʌ’leɡi…

  1. Great article guys – love seeing the specifics! And I know you are getting excited about getting finished up with everything and hitting the road! We miss you guys. Hi to Slammin Sammy too – L for the fam

  2. WOW! Intense! We’ll be praying 🙂

  3. Peter,
    I agree with Tina…I’ll be praying. suddenly the more difficult project that are before me don’t see so hard. Part of me is fascinated and part of me is grateful for my current calling that doesn’t include the Cherokee language. We’ve enjoyed having your bride here in Baraboo. I am praying for both of you in light of this time of separation and praying towards the good Lord’s provision in all things that await you both as you walk the path our Lord has set before you. Grace and peace and linguistic excellent be unto you through the power of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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