Sign Language Among North American Indians – Foreign Correspondence

Valuable contributions have been received in 1880-’81 and collated under their proper headings, from the following correspondents in distant countries:

Rev. Herman N. Barnum, D.D., of Harpoot, Turkey, furnishes a list of signs in common use among Turks, Armenians, and Koords in that region.

Miss L.O. Lloyd, Charleton House, Mowbray, near Cape Town, Africa, gives information concerning the gestures and signals of the Bushmen.

Rev. Lorimer Fison, Navuloa, Fiji, notes in letters comparisons between the signs and gestures of the Fijians and those of the North American Indians. As this paper is passing through the press a Collection is returned with annotations by him and also by Mr. Walter Carew, Commissioner for the Interior of Navitilevu. The last named gentleman describes some signs of a Fijian uninstructed deaf-mute.

Mr. F.A. von Rupprecht, Kepahiang, Sumatra, supplies information and comparisons respecting the signs and signals of the Redjangs and Lelongs, showing agreement with some Dakota, Comanche, and Ojibwa signs.

Letters from Mr. A.W. Howitt, F.G.S., Sale, Gippsland, Victoria, upon Australian signs, and from Rev. James Sibree, jr., F.R.G.S., relative to the tribes of Madagascar, are gratefully acknowledged.

Many other correspondents are now, according to their kind promises, engaged in researches, the result of which have not yet been received. The organization of those researches in India and Ceylon has been accomplished through the active interest of Col. H.S. Olcott, U.S. Commissioner, Breach Candy, Bombay.

Grateful acknowledgment must be made to Prof. E.A. Fay, of the National Deaf Mute College, through whose special attention a large number of the natural signs of deaf-mutes, remembered by them as having been invented and used before instruction in conventional signs, indeed before attending any school, was obtained. The gentlemen who made the contributions in their own MS., and without prompting, are as follows: Messrs. M. Ballard, R.M. Ziegler, J. Cross, Philip J. Hasenstab, and Lars Larson. Their names respectively follow their several descriptions. Mr. Ballard is an instructor in the college, and the other gentlemen were pupils during the session of 1880.

Similar thanks are due to Mr. J.L. Noyes, superintendent of the Minnesota Institution for the education of the Deaf and Dumb, Faribault, Minn., and to Messrs. George Wing and D.H. Carroll, teachers in that institution, for annotations and suggestions respecting deaf-mute signs. The notes made by the last named gentlemen are followed by their respective names in reference.

Special thanks are also rendered to Prof. James D. Butler, of Madison, Wis., for contribution of Italian gesture-signs, noted by him in 1843, and for many useful suggestions.

Other Italian signs are quoted from the Essay on Italian gesticulations by his eminence Cardinal Wiseman, in his Essays on Various Subjects, London, 1855, Vol. III, pp. 533-555. Many Neapolitan signs are extracted from the illustrated work of the canon Andrea de Jorio, La Mimica degli Antichi investigata nel gestire Napoletano, Napoli, 1832.

A small collection of Australian signs has been extracted from R. Brough Smyth’s The Aborigines of Victoria, London, 1878.


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

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