A language of United States

Alternate Names
Tsalagi, Tslagi

10,400 (2010 census). Spoken by 10,000 of the 122,000 member Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, by 1,000 of the 10,000 Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina, by a high percentage of the 7,500 members of the United Keetoowah Band of Oklahoma and Arkansas (Golla 2007). 130 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 140,000 (Golla 2007).


Oklahoma: Cherokee Reservation; North Carolina: Great Smokey Mountains area.

Language Status

6b (Threatened).


Elati (Eastern Cherokee, Lower Cherokee), Kituhwa (Middle Cherokee), Otali (Overhill Cherokee, Upper Cherokee, Western Cherokee), Overhill-Middle Cherokee.


SOV; noun head final; animate/inanimate nouns; tense and aspect; 10 consonants, 12 vowels; pitch accent; inclusive/exclusive pronouns.

Language Use

Regularly taught at University of Oklahoma and Northeast Oklahoma University. Adult classes held in many locations. Cherokee Nation sponsors language preservation project (Golla 2007). Older adults and elderly and those involved in language preservation programs. Used as L2 by Natchez [ncz].

Language Development

Literacy rate in L1: 15%–20% can read, 5% can write (1986 Cherokee Heritage Center). Tsalagi tsunadeloquasdi began in 2001 as a language Preservation program; in the 2013–14 school year, it served more than 90 children in preschool through sixth grade. Lessons are taught from a Cherokee cultural perspective while addressing the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) objectives. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 1850–1951.


Cherokee script [Cher]. Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Christian, traditional religion.

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