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Archive for the 'Symbol and Gesture' Category

Silent Drill by Signs – a Scout Sign System from 1934

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 February 2018

Written in 1934 or 1935 by Martin Baker, who was Assistant County Commissioner for the Training of Scouters in Birminmgham, Silent Drill by Signs tells us that,

There is a fascination in Drill by Signs, a sense of good-will, cheeriness and scout atmosphere which is not to be found in Sergeant-Major’s methods.

Those participating experience an increased alertness, and can attain by the Sign method a smartness hitherto impossible, and this without domineering or bullying.

The idea of using Signs for drill is not new- some of the signs are as old as the hills; it is in the method of use that the new feature lies, and it will be found to make all the difference between perfect performance and chaos.

Although Drill by Signs has been taught on the Wood Badge Courses sincve the very beginning of Training, it has not become the onl;y scouty way of moving scouts, because the method lacked one essential of any good drill, an adequate warning.

The Sign given not only showed the Scouts what was required, but it was also the signal to do it!  Hence the brightest moved first, and there was no unanimity of movement, which is the soul of smart drill.

The method here described was first used as a camp-fire item at Oslo, during the “Calgaric Cruise” in the Baltic.  A team of twelve Scouters volunyteered to be drilled by this method, and the success of the attempt prompted others to take it up.  I therefore offer it to Scouters and Guuiders generally as a new and successful method which I believe will prove worth trying.

The Signs I have suggested are a mixture of those taught at Gilwell, American Indian Sign Language, and some made up on the spur of the moment, usually good common sense, descriptive of the required action where possible.

Other Signs may be invented as desired, but keep them simple, and if possible descriptive.

It is interesting to compare the sign used for ‘form line,’ with the Indian sign for ‘soldiers’ in Ernest Thomas Seton‘s 1918 book, Sign Talk.  In the scout version, Baker has the hands held high to be seen more clearly.  Seton was a pioneer of the Boy Scouts of America.  That book was in turn heavily influenced by the U.S. general, Hugh L. Scott, who had learnt Indian signs from a Kiowa, I-See-O.  Click on the images for a larger size.
We have a copy of Seton’s book that is heavily annotated by Paget.

I think our copy of Silent Drill is pretty rare.

“Done out of French.” An Essay upon the Action of an Orator; as to his Pronunciation & Gesture, Michel le Faucheur.

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 19 May 2017

Le FaucheurIn his epic collecting frenzy, our great benefactor, Selwyn Oxley, collected an eclectic mixture of books old and (then) new.  They could be on any aspect of deafness or hearing loss, but included what we might consider related topics such as voice and gesture.  That is why we have a copy of An Essay upon the Action of an Orator; as to his Pronunciation and Gesture.  Useful both for Divines and Lawyers, and necessary for all young Gentlemen, that study how to speak well in Publick. Done out of French.  There is neither a date, nor is the author named, but it seems he was a Swiss Frenchman, Michel Le Faucheur, and that the English edition was produced in approximately 1680-1702, depending on who you believe.  It seems to have been very influential in Britain according to Gaillet (1994), and in addition to the Essay which was written towards the end of his life, he produced what Farnum (1964) called a ‘mighty tome on the Eucharist’ and what were then, famous sermons. LF

Born in Geneva around 1585, Le Faucheur was of French extraction, his Huguenot family having it seems fled from La Rochelle.  One of his teachers was Theodore Beza.  Aged eighteen he became a pastor in Dijon, later in Montpellier.  From 1626 until his death, he was pastor at Charenton.  In 1632* Cardinal Richelieu wanted to get him on his side and tried a bribe, but when Le Faucheur refused he was denied permission to preach.  In her Phd thesis, Emily Farnum says Richelieu “is Le Faucheur’s fatal antagonist” (p. 262).

Le Faucheur died in 1657, having never married.  He seems to be a very interesting person, worthy of reconsideration, especially for those interested in the French Wars of Religion.

Below is a page from the book that deals with gesture. Le Faucheur 2

Gaillet, Lynée Lewis, Michel Le Faucheur (1585- 1657), p.70-74 in, Eighteenth-century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources. ed. Michael G. Moran, 1994. 

MICHEL LE FAUCHEUR AND HIS INFLUENCE (IN THREE VOLUMES) FARNUM, EMILY. The University of Wisconsin – Madison, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1964. 6413872

Second Edition of ‘An Essay…’

Onsberg, Merete, [Review of] Paul Goring’s The Rhetoric of Sensibility in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Rhetorical Review 4:2 (June 2006)

http://dvarim.fr/LeFaucheur/Le%20Faucheur_bio.html

*See a discussion in Farnum of this episode.

Alphabet, Manuel-Figure des Sourds-Muets de Naissance, An VIII (1799-1800)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 17 March 2017

Alphabet 1A year or so ago we came across, in our French language collection, this extremely rare manual alphabet – Alphabet, Manuel-Figure des Sourds-Muets de Naissance.  It was printed in Paris, in an VIII, revolutionary year 8, which dates from the 23rd of September, 1799, to the 22nd of September, 1800.  That was the period when Bonaparte returned from Egypt and used his popularity to instigate the coup of  18 Brumaire, becoming ‘consul’ and virtual dictator.  It was possibly printed by the pupils (boys) of the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris, then under the principal, the Abbé Sicard.  Sicard had an extraordinary life, narrowly avoiding execution during the French Revolution in 1792, when he was arrested by the Revolutionary Commune for failing to take the oath of civil allegiance.  You can read about that in Harlan Lane’s book, When the Mind Hears (1984, see chapter 2 in particular), and in the more recent Abbé Sicard’s deaf education : empowering the mute, 1785-1820 (2015) by Emmet Kennedy.  The coup of 18 Fructidor sent Sicard into hiding, and he only emerged when Bonaparte came to power.  We have a copy of Sicard’s first book published in an VIII (year 8), Cours d’instruction d’un sourd-muet de naissance, pour servir a l’éducation des sourds-muets, but it appears that the sign alphabet that is supposed to be in it, is missing from the first edition we have.  Here it is from the back of the 1803 second edition.  Click for a larger size.Cours 1803

Was Alphabet, Manuel-Figure printed for the use of the pupils, or to sell in order to raise money?  Was it printed by the pupils, as an exercise, or a way of learning a trade?  I think we may well attribute Sicard as the man behind the publication, but perhaps it was just publicity material for the school with another teacher responsible.  It is beyond my expertise to say anything more about the Alphabet, so I present the printed pages.  It is not printed on every page, and I suspect it was printed on one sheet, then folded and cut, but if you have a more informed view about how it may have been laid out, please contribute below.

I think that this item is, as I said above, extremely rare, but it may well be unique.  The small plaque under each picture is probably aesthetic, but seems to me to make the pictures seem more ‘monumental’ and, if I dare use the term, (it may be legitimate here!), ‘iconic.’  Now compare the hand shapes in the 1803 alphabet above, with those in our 1799 one below.  See the interesting differences.  Is one drawn by a ‘reader’ of the signs, and one by the ‘speaker’, or is one drawn by the artist from his (or her) own hand shapes?  Is the 1799 Cours d’instruction alphabet different?  If both were by Sicard, would they not be identical, or could that just be a matter of the artist executing the engravings?

It measures approximately 14cm by 23cm.  We are in the process of getting many of these books, previously on card index only, onto the UCL catalogue, to make them more ‘visible’ to researchers.

The pages between those below, are blank.

Alphabet 2 Alphabet 3 Alphabet 4 Alphabet 5

Cours d’instruction d’un sourd-muet de naissance, pour servir a l’éducation des sourds-muets – on Google Books, unfortunately lacks the sign alphabet at the back.

Ernest Seton Thompson, William Tomkins, & sign language of the American Indians

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 1 May 2015

Before Europeans went to North America, it seems there were already extensive sign languages there, which were used for inter-tribal communication.  In the introduction to his book Universal Indian Sign Language of the Plains Indians of North America (1st ed. 1926), William Tomkins says,

There is a sentiment connected with the Indian Sign Language that attaches to no other. It is probably the first American language. It is the first and only American universal language. It may be the first universal language produced by any people. It is a genuine Indian language of great antiquity. It has a beauty and imagery possessed by few, if any, other languages. It is the foremost gesture language that the world has ever produced.

The author lectured on Indian problems to many audiences, and at all times the keenest interest was shown in sign language demonstrations, and he was asked, hundreds of times, to make the record permanent, and to thereby preserve and perpetuate the original American language which otherwise is fast passing away.

This is shown by the fact that in 1885 Lewis F. Hadley, at that time a foremost authority on sign, claimed that as a result of extensive investigation he had determined that there were over 110,000 sign-talking Indians in the United States. (ibid p. 3)

Tomkins grew up, he tells us, in Dakota Territory, at Fort Sully. I have been unable to uncover any further biographical information about Tomkins (please contribute below if there is anything you can add), but his book was adopted by the Boy Scouts of America and used at the World Scout Jamboree of 1929.  I suspect that is when this copy was signed by him.  Tomkins is pictured with one of the last great Sioux chiefs who helped preserve his nation’s culture, but whose life reflects his nation’s eclipse, Chief Flying Hawk.

TTomkinsSouth Shields born Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), was a skilled artist and writer who started modern scouting in America, inspiring Baden Powell, and was one of the pioneers of the conservation movement.  He was also father of the historical novelist Anya Seton.  There is plenty to be found about this fascinating man so I will not repeat it.

We have a copy of Seton’s book, Sign Talk, A Universal Signal Code, without Apparatus, for Use in the Army, the Navy, camping, Hunting, and Daily Life (1918), that was owned by Sir Richard Paget, and perhaps influenced his sign system.  Here we see some of his marginal notes – click on the image for a larger size.

Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Device (6)
Sign Language – Indian Sign Language [accessed 1/5/2015]

Davis, Jeffrey E. Hand talk : sign language among American Indian nations, CUP 2010

Tomkins, W., Universal Indian Sign Language of the Plains Indians of North America, 1st ed. 1926 and 4th ed. 1929

Seton, Ernest Thompson, Sign Talk, 1918

NOTE: I use the term ‘American Indians’ because that is the term Seton and Tomkins used.

The Finger Spelling alphabet

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 21 November 2014

There is not much written about finger spelling, but in April 1889 Albert Farrar, who had been educated by Arnold at Northampton, wrote an article in Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education on the history of the manual alphabet;

The use of signs and pantomimic gestures is undoubtedly of great antiquity, so much so, that its origin is lost in the obscurity of the distant past. Language has various forms, speech being one, and signs and gestures another, and when we consider how permanent and universal is the faculty of expressing our thoughts in different ways, we may well believe that signs were resorted to as soon as men felt the need of some such expedients to supply the deficiencies of speech, or to facilitate intercourse with other tribes or nations. Some think they preceded speech. We must, however, look on language as a Divine gift, and probably the most reasonable conjecture we can form would be that most of its different forms existed from the first and helped one another till speech, greatly amplified and perfected, became the one medium of intercourse and the highest mode of expression. The “survival of the fittest,” if you like! Signs or gestures were, however, not entirely displaced […]

Farrar was writing only a few years after the death of Charles Darwin whose views on the origin of language are discussed here and he slips in Spencer’s phrase ‘Survival of the fittest’ that is widely associated with Darwin.  We can dismiss the “Divine gift” idea, but the idea that gesture and signs preceded language is still a major theory.  Farrar points out that the history of the British two handed alphabet was not terribly well known, but reminds us the Venerable Bede wrote about such a system in De computo seu Indigitilatione et de Loquela manuali per gestum digitorum [also described as De Computo vel Loguela per Gestum Digitorum].

FarrarFarrar concludes his article,

In usage, our manual alphabet is not quite uniform over the country, but the differences are so few and slight as to be unnoticeable, except in v and z.  Both the forms of q in Digiti-Linga are used.  Dr. R. Elliott writes me, “I have every reason to believe the manual alphabet in its present form has always been used in the Asylum (Old Kent Road).  I have met with two of the first six pupils, and the only difference they made on the present usage was, to put the knuckles of the forefingers together with the fingers spread out for v.

We have illustrated older finger alphabets on the blog previously, but today we are inserting the alphabet from Digiti Lingua that is missing from our copy.

alphabet

Bragg, Lois (1997). Visual-Kinetic Communication in Europe Before 1600: A Survey of Sign Lexicons and Finger Alphabets Prior to the Rise of Deaf Education. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 2:1 Winter 1997 p.1-25 [a very comprehensive survey]

BRIEN, D. Dictionary of British Sign Language/English. 1992, Faber and Faber. p. 849. Fingerspelling in British Sign language.

BRENNAN M. Making borrowings work in British Sign Language. in: BRENTARI D. Foreign vocabulary in sign languages. 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 49-85. (Library location: UTB TNX)

FARRAR, A. Our manual alphabet and its predecessors, Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education  1889, Vol. 2 p.33-41

SPENCE, R SUTTON-, WOLL B, ALLSOP L. Variation and recent change in fingerspelling in British Sign Language. Language Variation and Change, 1990, 29(3), 313-330. (Library location: C6845 REF)

SPENCE, R SUTTON-, WOLL B. The status and functional role of fingerspelling in BSL. In MARSCHARK M, CLARK M D. Psychological perspectives on deafness. 1993, Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 185-208.

SHIPGOOD L E, PRING T R. The difficulties of learning fingerspelling: an experimental investigation with hearing adult learners. European Journal of Disorders of Communication, 1995, 30(4), 401-416.

SPENCE, R SUTTON-. Grammatical constraints on fingerspelled English verb loans in BSL. In LUCAS C. Pinky extension and eye gaze: language use in deaf communities. 1998, Gallaudet University Press. pp. 41-58.

 

Henry Siddons – Practical Illustrations of Rhetorical Gesture and Action (1807)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 29 November 2013

cover Siddons

This book is an adaptation of a work Ideer Zu Einer Mimik (1795) by Johann Jakob Engel, German philosopher and dramatist.  The illustrations were familiar to Charles Darwin from his research for the book The expression of the emotions in man and animals (1872), via Moreau’s edited edition of Lavater which used many of these images (see Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture by Jonathan Smith, 2009).  To my eyes they seem a little stiff – some work better than others.

Astonishment

Henry Siddons was part of a great acting family.  His mother Sarah was a notable actress, remembered today by the Sarah Siddons Society that gives an award to a female actor, while his aunts, uncles and cousins were all successful in the theatre.

We like the emotion ‘indifference’ here – however we are not sure that we would display it quite like that!

Siddons indifference

 

Harpocrates – God of Silence

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 August 2013

Gisbert Cuper, or Gisbertus Cuperus as his name appears in the Latin in which he published, was a Dutch antiquarian and philologist (1644-1716).  The book of his we have in the library, bound with Antonius Borremansius’s Variarum Lectionum Liber, is called simply Harpocrates.  Harpocrates was the Greek and Roman God of Silence, adapted from the Egyptian Har-pa-khered in the Hellenistic period.  He was the child version of Horus, the newborn sun, depicted in statues as a child with a finger to his mouth.  This, representing a child, was misinterpreted by Greeks as meaning silence, and we see a depiction of that on the title page of the book here:

Harp 0 001

Throughout, our copy is heavily annotated in ink by a previous owner, but in a hand I cannot decipher.  I find the illustrations charming!  I confess I wondered if Harpo Marx got his name in any way from this god, being the brother who never spoke on screen, but although his brother Groucho joked that he had, he was named after his harp playing.

Harp 1 001Harp 2 001