Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blackfoot syllabary question

Q: I was contacting you to see if you could help me out with a situation. I was looking for the proper symbols and way to spell out the word family in the native language of Blackfoot Native Americans.

A: This is a frequently-asked question of sorts. :-) Let me show you how to do it!

First, you find how to spell the Blackfoot word (or name) you want in English letters. In this case, the word "family" is spelled nikso'kowaiksi in the English alphabet.

Second, you find a chart of the Blackfoot syllabary (writing system.) Here's one from our website, complete with an explanation of how to find each character on the chart: Blackfoot syllabary.

Third, you write each character down in order, left to right. You can either write them out longhand, or download a Blackfoot font. I like this Blackfoot font from LanguageGeek.

Here is the final result for nikso'kowaiksi:

There is one character for each of the syllables ni, kso, ko, wa, i, and ksi. There's no way to represent the glottal stop ' in the Blackfoot syllabary, which was adapted by missionaries who were not native speakers of Blackfoot and missed several nuances of the language.

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Blackfoot language
Blackfoot names
Native American language translations

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