Why is the Cherokee “DO” upside-down?

The Cherokee symbol for the syllable “DO” has, historically, had two printed forms: one which looks like a Greek capital lambda Λ, and one which looks like a Latin capital V. Depending on which font you have active, the following Cherokee symbol: -- Ꮩ -- should look like one of the versions described above.

Which one is correct? All of the Cherokee speakers and language teachers I have consulted with universally accept the Latin capital V form (the modern orientation). However, according to his manuscripts, Sequoyah used the lambda-like glyph Λ. So originally, “DO” was up-pointing. This early version of the character also appears in Samuel Worcester's 1828 syllabary and...

“was used consistently in publications of the Cherokee National Press through 31 May 1834, when the last issue of the Cherokee Phoenix was printed at New Echota in the Old Nation. But two years later, when the first edition of the Cherokee Almanac was printed at Union, in the west, [do] and [to] were consistently represented by the character in its modern orientation. (Walker and Sarbaugh: The Early History of the Cherokee Syllabary in Ethnohistory: Winter 1993)

In modern times, the Latin capital V form is the correct orientation of the “DO” character. Some fonts, most notably Plantagenet Cherokee which comes standard on some Macs and Windows OS, have the old Λ form of DO. In Cherokee-language documents where a ‘historical’ look is desired, the old form may have its uses. In all other cases, using the old form would be like retaining the long-ſ in Engliſh.

For those users prefer the old-form “DO”, I suggest either using an old version of Plantagenet or use Languagegeek's Digohweli. In Digohweli, the old form of DO is available in Stylistic Set 01 and as a Historic Alternate, so those using a desktop publisher (like inDesign, but also even in Mac's TextEdit) should be able to select for the old DO. For those who want the old DO in other applications, please download and install the OLD-DO version of Digohweli.

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©2002-2009 Chris Harvey/Languagegeek
Last Modified: 04-Aug-2010