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Eloquence EmbodiedNonverbal Communication among French and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas$
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Céline Carayon

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469652627

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469652627.001.0001

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“Acquainted by Some Signes”

“Acquainted by Some Signes”

Communication, Knowledge, and Sign Language in Native America

Chapter:
(p.37) 1 “Acquainted by Some Signes”
Source:
Eloquence Embodied
Author(s):

Céline Carayon

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469652627.003.0002

Throughout the colonial period, the remarkable linguistic diversity of Indigenous America puzzled, amazed, and frustrated European colonists. But pre-Columbian Indigenous peoples across the continent were already experts at communicating with foreigners through alternate means, including whistle speech, smoke signals, and gestures. In this chapter, complex Indigenous nonverbal traditions of communication are situated within the rich linguistic landscape that existed in America prior to the colonial encounter. Native expressiveness, the author argues, must be understood through its multimedia combination of visual, verbal, material, and nonverbal dimensions. The chapter also offers an overview of the regions and cultures where early French colonists were most likely to encounter fully conventional forms of Indigenous sign language and other nonverbal practices, which profoundly shaped the form and outcome of early colonial interactions. The French often drew simplistic conclusions about the varying degrees of “civilization” or “barbarism” of the groups they met based on their communicational successes and failures with these groups. The chapter argues that their writings obscure (but can also reveal) the true diversity and richness of Indigenous communication in Northeastern North America, South America, and the Circum-Caribbean region.

Keywords:   Linguistic diversity, Gestures, Pre-Columbian, Smoke signals, Indigenous sign language, Material culture, Nonverbal, Civilization, Native expressiveness

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