A Collection of Gesture-Signs and Signals of the North American Indians

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The efforts at intercommunication of all savage and barbaric tribes, when brought into contact with other bodies of men not speaking an oral language common to both, and especially when uncivilized inhabitants of the same territory are separated by many linguistic divisions, should in theory resemble the devices of the North American Indians. They are not shown by published works to prevail in the Eastern hemisphere to the same extent and in the same manner as in North, and also, as believed from less complete observation, in South America. It is, however, probable that they exist in manv localities, though not reported, and also that some of them survive after partial or even high civilization has been attained, and after changed environment has rendered their systematic employment unnecessary. Such signs may be, first, imcon nected with existing oral language, and used in place of it; second, may be used to explain or accentuate the words of ordinary speech, or may consist of gestures, emo tional or not, which are only noticed in oratory or impassioned conversation, such being, possibly, survivals of a former gesture-language. All classes of gestures may be examined philologically to trace their possible con nection with the radicals of language, syllabaries, and ideographic characters. Evi dence has accumulated to show that the language of signs preceded in importance. That of sounds, the latter remaining rudimentarylong after gesture had become an art. The early connection between them was so intimate that gestures, in the wide sense of presenting ideas under physical forms, had a formative effect upon many words, thus show ing that language originated partly, at least, from the sounds which naturally accompany certain gestures. It seems certain that the latter exhibit the earliest condition of the human mind, and that mainly through them was significance communicated to speech.

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