Sequoyah’s syllabary for the Cherokee language

Stan Carey in Sentence First:

Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel has an engrossing chapter on the evolution of writing as a communication technology. It includes a brief account of the development of a syllabary – a set of written characters that represent syllables – for the Cherokee language. The syllabary looks like this:

Some of the signs (or ‘syllabograms’) will look familiar, others like variations of familiar shapes. But any similarity to the Roman, Greek, and Hebrew alphabets is misleading. For example, in a nice demonstration of the arbitrariness of the sign, the first three, RDW, encode the sounds eala. So what’s going on?

I’ll let Diamond tell most of the story. First, a step back.

More here.