Extracts from Dictionary – Yes – Sign Language

Yes; Affirmation; It Is So (Compare Good)

The motion is somewhat like truth, viz: The forefinger in the attitude of pointing, from the mouth forward in a line curving a little upward, the other fingers being carefully closed; but the finger is held rather more upright, and is passed nearly straightforward from opposite the breast, and when at the end of its course it seems gently to strike something, though with rather a slow and not suddenly accelerated motion. (Long.)

Wave the hand straight forward from the face. (Burton.) This may be compared with the forward nod common over most of the world for assent, but that gesture is not universal, as the New Zealanders elevate the head and chin, and the Turks are reported by several travelers to shake the head somewhat like our negative. Rev. H.N. Barnum denies that report, giving below the gesture observed by him. He, however, describes the Turkish gesture sign for truth to be “gently bowing with head inclined to the right.” This sidewise inclination may be what has been called the shake of the head in affirmation.

Another: Wave the hand from the mouth, extending the thumb from the index and closing the other three fingers. (Burton.)

Gesticulate vertically downward and in front of the body with the extended forefinger (right hand usually), the remaining fingers and thumb closed, their nails down. (Creel; Arapaho I.)

Right hand elevated to the level and in front of the shoulder, two first fingers somewhat extended, thumb resting against the middle finger; sudden motion in a curve forward and downward. (Cheyenne II.) It has been suggested that the correspondence between this gesture and the one given by the same gesturer for sitting (made by holding the right hand to one side, fingers and thumb drooping, and striking downward to the ground or object to be sat upon) seemingly indicates that the origin of the former is in connection with the idea of “resting,” or “settling a question.” It is however at least equally probable that the forward and downward curve is an abbreviation of the sign for truth, true, a typical description of which follows given by (Dakota I). The sign for true can often be interchanged with that for yes, in the same manner as the several words.

The index of the horizontal hand (M), other fingers closed, is carried straight outward from the mouth. This is also the sign for truth. (Dakota I.) “But one tongue.”

Extend the right index, the thumb against it, nearly close the other fingers, and holding it about a foot in front of the right breast, bend the hand from the wrist downward until the end of the index has passed about six inches through an arc. Some at the same time move the hand forward a little. (Dakota IV.) “A nod; the hand representing the head and the index the nose.”

Hold the naturally closed hand before the right side of the breast, or shoulder, leaving the index and thumb extended, then throw the hand downward, bring the index against the inner side of the thumb. (Dakota VI, VII, VIII.) Fig. 280. Compare also Fig. 61, p. 286, supra, Quintilian’s sign for approbation.

Fig. 280
Fig. 280

The right hand, with the forefinger only extended and pointing forward, is held before and near the chest. It is then moved forward one or two feet, usually with a slight curve downward. (Mandan and Hidatsa I.)

Bend the right arm, pointing toward the chest with the index finger; unbend, throwing the hand up and forward. (Omaha I.)

Another: Close the three fingers, close the thumb over them, extend forefinger, and then shake forward and down. This is more emphatic than the preceding, and signifies, Yes, I know. (Omaha I.)

The right arm is raised to head with the index finger in type-position (I1), modified by being more opened. From aside the head the hands sweep in a curve to the right ear as of something entering or hearing something; the finger is then more open and carried direct to the ground as something emphatic or direct. (Oto and Missouri I.) “‘I hear,’ emphatically symbolized.” It is doubted if this sign is more than an expression of understanding which may or may not imply positive assent. It would not probably be used as a direct affirmative, for instance, in response to a question.

The hand open, palm downward, at the level of the breast, is moved forward with a quick downward motion from the wrist, imitating a bow of the head. (Iroquois I.)

Throw the closed right hand, with the index extended and bent, as high as the face, and let it drop again naturally; but as the hand reaches its greatest elevation the index is fully extended and suddenly drawn into the palm, the gesture resembling a beckoning from above toward the ground. (Kaiowa I; Comanche III; Apache II; Wichita II.)

Quick motion of the right hand forward from the mouth; first position about six inches from the mouth and final as far again away. In first position the index finger is extended, the others closed; in final, the index loosely closed, thrown in that position as the hand is moved forward, as though hooking something with it; palm of hand out. (Sahaptin I.)

Another: Move right hand to a position in front of the body, letting arm hang loosely at the side, the thumb standing alone, all fingers hooked except forefinger, which is partially extended (E 1, palm upward). The sign consists in moving the forefinger from its partially extended position to one similar to the others, as though making a sly motion for some one to come to you. This is done once each tune the assent is made. More emphatic than the preceding. (Sahaptin I.) “We are together, think alike.”

Deaf-mute natural sign:

Indicate by nodding the head. (Ballard.)

Deaf-mute sign:

The French mutes unite the extremities of the index and thumb so as to form a circle and move the hand downward with back vertical and turned outward. It has been suggested in explanation that the circle formed and exhibited is merely the letter O, the initial of the word oui.

Fiji sign:

Assent is expressed, not by a downward nod as with ourselves, but by an upward nod; the head is jerked backward. Assent is also expressed by uplifting the eyebrows. (Fison.)

Turkish sign:

One or two nods of the head forward. (Barnum.)

Other remarks and illustrations upon the signs for yes are given on page 286, supra.

Sign Language Among North American Indians Compared with that Among Other Peoples and Deaf-Mutes. 1881

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