- Cherokee Reference Grammar by Brad Montgomery-Anderson
By Brad Montgomery-Anderson. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015. xv + 497 pp. Audio track cd, figures, tables, appendixes, notes, bibliography, index. $45.00 cloth.
Brad Montgomery-Anderson's Cherokee Reference Grammar is a welcome addition to the fields of Cherokee studies, linguistics, and Great Plains studies. This volume is currently the only Cherokee reference grammar accessible to the general public. Prior to its release, both community members and trained linguists had to resort to phrase books, a few pedagogically oriented texts, and dissertations for writings about the Cherokee language. A universally accessible reference grammar is potentially life-changing in the move toward language revitalization, as it provides a crucial tool with which to learn and analyze the language.
As the dust jacket's synopsis indicates, the volume is intended for more experienced scholars. It should therefore come as no surprise that parts of the text can be dense and tend toward linguistic jargon. Despite this, the volume represents the most detailed and thorough study of Cherokee grammar I have ever seen. The work is also extremely respectful of the Cherokee community, rendering examples in the Cherokee syllabary alongside their Roman transcriptions. By using the orthography invented by Sequoyah for Cherokee speakers, Montgomery-Anderson honors the linguistic sovereignty of Cherokee in a way that many linguistic treatments do not.
In addition to its value as a scholarly reference, I have found this book useful as a tool for curriculum design. With a thorough knowledge of the grammatical points presented, a teacher of Cherokee can decide which points to integrate into contextually oriented materials. This combination can produce second-language speakers of Cherokee who are also experts in the language's grammar. Such students could then expand their knowledge, providing hope for the language's future beyond the current generation of elders.
As a contribution to research on the Great Plains, this work represents something of a quandary. Though Cherokees constitute the largest tribal nation in Oklahoma, they are indigenous to the Southeastern Woodlands. After forcible removal to the Great Plains, they have grown to their current population level through constant adaptation and ingenuity. As a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which still lives in the traditional Cherokee homeland, I do not think of Cherokee as an important language of Oklahoma. Even so, I cannot ignore the truth of that statement. Cherokees in Oklahoma have retained a remarkable number of speakers, roughly four times the number that remain in North Carolina, and therefore represent an example of a vibrant linguistic community in the Great Plains. Although not indigenous to the Great [End Page 145] Plains, Cherokees constitute an undeniable part of the region's continuing history.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill