Working with both technology and the Cherokee language for my job my department is constantly trying to promote and advance the Cherokee language from a technology standpoint. Recently we approached the Unicode Consortium to adopt Cherokee syllabary lowercase. We successfully worked with them in 2005 to adopt regular case Cherokee syllabary but there is no lower case character set. This is identical to English upper and lower case and it helps distinguish names, beginning of sentences etc. Right now the Cherokee syllabary everyone is used to seeing is considered upper case.
What does this mean from a technology standpoint and who is the Unicode Consortium? For those unfamiliar the Unicode Consortium is a non-profit corporation devoted to developing, maintaining, and promoting software internationalization standards and data, particularly the Unicode Standard, which specifies the representation of text in all modern software products and standards. From a technology standpoint having your language recognized by the Unicode Consortium ensures that your language will appear on any computer operating system in the world correctly. Each unicode character is assigned a particular number. For instance the letter “B” is assigned the set 13D7 and no other character ever gets that number. This allows any computer in the world to display the letter “B” correctly on the screen because it is in the unicode database.
When Cherokee first came into print they had both upper and lower case typeset. But through time the lower case was pushed to the wayside and only upper case characters were used. My department wanted to give Cherokee speakers a choice in what they wanted to use.
Once accepted our next step was to develop a Cherokee lower case. Working with a typographer we began font creation. There are 86 Cherokee characters to develop so we relied heavily on fluent speakers and people that have worked with the Cherokee syllabary to help develop this font and produce something everyone was happy with.
As of right now the font is completed. We are in the beta testing phase of the process and in the next 2 to 3 months all the bugs will be worked out and then Cherokee lower case will be released to the world.