A few weeks later, and here’s a brief update on what I (Pete) have been doing here in Oklahoma.
I’m now finished with five of the seven weeks of the live language practicum. I’ve compiled over 1400 utterances to use in my interpretation and analysis of the language, and now in the last two weeks, I’m hoping to begin making some conclusions about how and why the language does what it does.
Here are is one example:
One of the vowels that we use to write down our phonetics is the “æ” – which in phonetics is referred to as a digraph. The digraph makes the sound made by the “a” in “apple.” However, this sound is never found in Cherokee, except in one position. Look below to see if you can find what position that might be.
As you may have noticed, the digraph always comes before the letter “n.” But as linguists, our job is to not only notice what is happening, but to explain it as well. From my research, it appears that the Cherokee actually are thinking of the digraph, in this position, as the phonetic “e,” which is the sound made by the “a” in “ate.” However, they pronounce it as a digraph when it comes before the letter “n.”
This would be a reasonable hypothesis if it weren’t for one small problem. The “e” sound is sometimes found before the letter “n.” If it was true that “e” always changed to “æ” in front of “n,” then we shouldn’t have even one “e” before an “n,” but I have a lot of them there. I have a theory why this is happening…but I won’t tell you right now. You’ll have to wait to find out!
Anyway, that is just one of the areas I will be investigating as I finish my time here in Oklahoma over the next two weeks and begin my write-up of the Cherokee language. Another big area I will be looking at is how different verb tenses are formed, which is a more complicated task than it might sound like. Thank you so much, though, for all your prayers, support, and encouragement while we’ve been in Oklahoma. We truly appreciate it.
Lastly, here a few more pictures from Tahlequah, Oklahoma: