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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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“A Thousand Gesticulations and Affectations”

“A Thousand Gesticulations and Affectations”

Embodied Multilingualism and the Question of Culture Change in Seventeenth-Century America

(p.295) 5 “A Thousand Gesticulations and Affectations”
Eloquence Embodied

Céline Carayon

University of North Carolina Press

From the first encounter, gestures were used alongside speech to communicate across linguistic and cultural barriers. Gestures and sign language continued to occupy a crucial place in the language-learning process as colonial relations matured in the seventeenth century. In both Europe and Native America, bi- or multi-lingual individuals were rare and multilingualism mostly associated with trade, war, and diplomacy. Nonverbal and paralinguistic elements of speech played an important role in shaping each group’s perception of the qualities and weaknesses of another’s language and culture. This chapter explores what identity shifts were associated with learning, teaching, and speaking another language in Indigenous societies and for different groups of Frenchmen. Lay Frenchmen, traders, and interpreters were able to adopt more fluid and immersive strategies to acquire Indigenous languages than Catholic missionaries. Still, despite their reluctance to adopt Indigenous language-learning techniques, the Jesuits also came to depend on deeply embodied dialogues with Indian and French informers and teachers to acquire verbal and nonverbal fluency critical to the success of their missions. Examples of Indian converts who preached in their tongues are given.

Keywords:   Multilingualism, Language-learning, Paralinguistic, Jesuit missionaries, Interpreters, Nonverbal, Identity, Indian converts

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