Extracts from Dictionary – Quantity to Question – Sign Language

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Quantity, Large; Many; Much

The flat of the right hand patting the back of the left hand, which is repeated in proportion to the greater or lesser quantity. (Dunbar.) Simple repetition.

The hands and arms are passed in a curvilinear direction outward and downward, as if showing the form of a large globe; then the hands are closed and elevated, as if something was grasped in each hand and held up about as high as the face. (Long; Creel.)

Clutch at the air several times with both hands. The motion greatly resembles those of danseuses playing the castanets. (Ojibwa I.)

In the preceding signs the authorities have not distinguished between the ideas of “many” and “much.” In the following there appears by the expressions of the authorities to be some distinction intended between a number of objects and a quantity in volume.

- – Many

A simultaneous movement of both hands, as if gathering or heaping up. (Arapaho I.) Literally “a heap.”

Both hands, with spread and slightly curved fingers, are held pendent about two feet apart before the thighs; then draw them toward one another, horizontally, drawing them upward as they come together. (Absaroka I; Shoshoni and Banak I; Kaiowa I; Comanche III; Apache II; Wichita II.) “An accumulation of objects.”

Hands about eighteen inches from the ground in front and about the same distance apart, held scoop-fashion, palms looting toward each other, fingers separated; then, with a diving motion, as if scooping up corn from the ground, bring the hands nearly together, with fingers nearly closed, as though holding the corn, and carry upward to the height of the breast, where the hands are turned over, fingers pointing downward, separated, as though the contents were allowed to drop to the ground. (Dakota I, II.)

Open the fingers of both hands, and hold the two hands before the breast, with the fingers upward and a little apart, and the palms turned toward each other, as if grasping a number of things. (Iroquois I.)

Place the hands on either side of and as high as the head, then open and close the fingers rapidly four or five times. (Wyandot I.) “Counting ‘tens’ an indefinite number of times.”

Clasp the hands effusively before the breast. (Apache III.)

Deaf-mute natural signs;

Put the fingers of the two hands together, tip to tip, and rub them with a rapid motion. (Ballard.)

Make a rapid movement of the fingers and thumbs of both hands upward and downward, and at the same time cause both lips to touch each other in rapid succession, and both eyes to be half opened. (Hasenstab.)

Move the fingers of both hands forward and backward. (Ziegler.) Add to Ziegler‘s sign: slightly opening and closing the hands. (Wing.)

——- – Horses.

Raise the right arm above the head, palm forward, and thrust forward forcibly on a line with the shoulder. (Omaha I.)

——- – Persons, etc.

Hands and fingers interlaced. (Macgowan.)

Take up a bunch of grass or a clod of earth; place it in the hand of the person addressed, who looks down upon it. (Omaha I.) “Represents as many or more than the particles contained in the mass.”

—— – - Much

Move both hands toward one another and slightly upward. (Wied.) I have seen this sign, but I think it is used only for articles that may be piled on the ground or formed into a heap. The sign most in use for the general idea of much or many I have given. (Matthews.)

Bring the hands up in front of the body with the fingers carefully kept distinct. (Cheyenne I.)

Both hands closed, brought up in a curved motion toward each other to the level of the neck or chin, (Cheyenne II.)

Both hands and arms are partly extended; each hand is then made to describe, simultaneously with the other, from the head downward, the arc of a circle curving outward. This is used for large in some senses. (Ojibwa V; Mandan and Hidatsa I.)

Both hands flat and extended, placed before the breast, finger tips touching, palms down; then separate them by passing outward and downward as if smoothing the outer surface of a globe. (Absaroka I; Shoshoni and Banack I; Kaiowa I; Comanche III; Apache II; Wichita II.) “A heap.”

Much is included in many or big, as the case may require. (Dakota I.)

The hands, with fingers widely separated, slightly bent, pointing forward, and backs outward, are to be rapidly approximated through downward curves, from positions twelve to thirty-six inches apart, at the height of the navel, and quickly closed. Or the hands may be moved until the right is above the left. So much that it has to be gathered with both hands. (Dakota IV.)

Hands open, palms turned in, held about three feet apart and about two feet from the ground. Raise them about a foot, then bring in an upward curve toward each other. As they pass each other, palms down, the right hand is about three inches above the left. (Omaha I.)

Place both hands flat and extended, thumbs touching, palms downward, in front of and as high as the face; then move them outward and downward a short distance toward their respective sides, thus describing the upper half of a circle. (Wyandot I.) “A heap.”

Both hands clinched, placed as high as and in front of the hips, palms facing opposite sides and about a foot apart, then bring them upward and inward, describing an arc, until the thumbs touch. (Apache I.) Fig. 274.

Fig. 274
Fig. 274

Sweep out both hands as if inclosing a large object; wave the hands forward and somewhat upward. (Apache III.) “Suggesting immensity.”

Deaf-mute sign:

The French deaf-mutes place the two hands, with fingers united and extended in a slight curve, nearly together, left above right, in front of the body, and then raise the left in a direct line above the right, thus suggesting the idea of a large and slightly-rounded object being held between the two palms.

——- – And heavy.

Hands open, palms turned in, held about three feet apart, and about two feet from the ground, raise them about a foot; close the fists, backs of hands down, as if lifting something heavy; then move a short distance up and down several times. (Omaha I.)

Remarks connected with the signs for quantity appear on pages 291, 359, and 382, supra.

Question; Inquiry; Interrogation

The palm of the hand upward and carried circularly outward, and depressed. (Dunbar.)

The hand held up with the thumb near the face, and the palm directed toward the person of whom the inquiry is made; then rotated upon the wrist two or three times edgewise, to denote uncertainty. (Long; Comanche I; Wichita I.) The motion might be mistaken for the derisive, vulgar gesture called “taking a sight,” “donner un pied de nez,” descending to our small boys from antiquity. The separate motion of the fingers in the vulgar gesture as used in our eastern cities is, however, more nearly correlated with some of the Indian signs for fool, one of which is the same as that for Kaiowa, see Tribal Signs. It may be noted that the Latin “sagax,” from which is derived “sagacity,” was chiefly used to denote the keen scent of dogs, so there is a relation established between the nasal organ and wisdom or its absence, and that “suspendere naso” was a classic phrase for hoaxing. The Italian expressions “restare con un palmo di naso,” “con tanto di naso,” etc., mentioned by the canon De Jorio, refer to the same vulgar gesture in which the face is supposed to be thrust forward sillily. Further remarks connected with this sign appear on pp. 304, 305, supra.

Extend the open hand perpendicularly with the palm outward, and move it from side to side several times. (Wied.) This sign is still used. For “outward,” however, I would substitute “forward.” The hand is usually, but not always, held before the face. (Matthews.) This is not the sign for question, but is used to attract attention before commencing a conversation or any other time during the talk, when found necessary. (McChesney.) With due deference to Dr. McChesney, this is the sign for question, as used by many tribes, and especially Dakotas. The Prince of Wied probably intended to convey the motion of forward, to the front, when he said outward. In making the sign for attention the hand is held more nearly horizontal, and is directed toward the individual whose attention is desired. (Hoffman.)

Right hand in front of right side of body, forearm horizontal, palm of hand to the left, fingers extended, joined and horizontal, thumb extending upward naturally, turn hand to the left about 60°, then resume first position. Continue this motion for about two to four seconds, depending on earnestness of inquiry. (Creel.)

Right hand, fingers pointing upward, palm outward, elevated to the level of the shoulder, extended toward the person addressed, and slightly shaken from side to side. (Cheyenne II.)

Hold the elbow of the right arm against the side, extending the right hand, palm inward, with all the fingers straight joined, as far as may be, while the elbow remains fixed against the side; then turn the extended hand to the right and left, repeating this movement several times, being performed by the muscles of the arm. (Sac, Fox, and Kickapoo I.)

Place the flat and extended right hand, palm forward, about twelve inches in front of and as high as the shoulder, then shake the hand from side to side as it is moved upward and forward. (Apache I.) See Fig. 304, in Tendoy-Huerito Dialogue, p. 486. This may be compared with the ancient Greek sign, Fig. 67, and with the modern Neapolitan sign, Fig. 70, both of which are discussed on p. 291, supra.

Deaf-mute natural sign:

A quick motion of the lips with an inquiring look. (Ballard.)

Deaf-mute sign:

The French deaf-mutes for inquiry, “qu’est-ce que c’est?” bring the hands to the lower part of the chest, with open palms about a foot separate and diverging outward.

Australian sign:

One is a sort of note of interrogation. For instance, if I were to meet a native and make the sign: Hand flat, fingers and thumb extended, the two middle fingers touching, the two outer slightly separated from the middle by turning the hand palm upward as I met him, it would mean: “Where are you going?” In other words I should say “Minna?” (what name?). (Smyth.) Fig. 275

Fig. 275
Fig. 275

Some comparisons and illustrations connected with the signs for question appear on pages 291, 297, and 303, supra, and under Phrases, infra. Quintilian remarks upon this subject as follows: “In questioning, we do not compose our gesture after any single manner; the position of the hand, for the most part is to be changed, however disposed before.”



MLA Source Citation:

Sign Language Among North American Indians Compared with that Among Other Peoples and Deaf-Mutes. 1881 AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 21 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/extracts-from-dictionary-quantity-to-question-sign-language.htm - Last updated on Jan 5th, 2014


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