This is a real freak job for me, I can't believe it. This is one of those examples where Oyate is blissfully wrong. I love being wrong. Every time I'm wrong it's good news for humanity.
In this case I was on a conference call and somebody asks me about Great Sign and with great authority and self-righteousness I told them it's a dead language, not really remembered by anyone and somebody was like "dude I just found it online".
And I was like "no way".
And they were like "dude, check it out" so I did. And it's true. There it is. Acutally, here it is:
I still can't believe it but there it is in way greater detail than I ever knew about. Man, if I could only be wrong like this every single day of my life, your life would be measurably better. The wronger I am the better it gets. I'm a pessimist. We roll like that.
So this leaves me with nothing better to do than to give you this introduction:
The Great Sign was this sign-language made with one's hands. In this one regard, it's similar to American Sign or International Sign which is the hand-language of deaf or mute people today. That's where the similarity ends because they are completely different.
What's so fascinating about Great Sign is it was the only pre-Columbian ubiquitous language. Nobody knows how old it is, nobody knows who came up with it first. But it was an inter-tribal language. From coast to coast, as far down as Guetemala from what I'm told, the Great Sign was understood.
Now here is where it gets really freaky. Present-day Mexico was like THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE in pre-Columbian America. All the deep science and technology came from there. The Incans had a dandy system of writing and mathematics so they had no use, no use atall for Great Sign except for the fact that they were so sophisticated and organized that they had translators for nearly every known language and Great Sign was a popular one. We know this because we can see what I think of as "vestigial elements" of Great Sign today in native speakers, especially the "cut-off sign" because many native peoples to this day are reticent about speaking the word for "death" or "has died".
I'm not sure contemporary ethnolinguists would consider it to be a "fully syntaxed" language since past and future "tenses" of "verbs" weren't really available, but there are about 200 signs and you can tell who you are, where you came from, what you are doing there, what you want and you cold put together simple sentences such as "3 days walk Northeast from here you will encounter a flat land with a big rock and on the far side of that rock is a cool spring of water". Or I might introduce myself as "I am 'all of the people' and I come from the other side of the great river where there are tall trees". This would demonstrate the downfall of the language because Oyate translates to "all of the people" so this would naturally be confusing.
The Great Sign demonstrates how inter-connected native cultures where at one point and the level of sophistication of trade and commerce. It was fantastically utile when there were like 100,000 languages spoken right here on this continent. It would be neat to see a revival of Great Sign but I can't think of any good reason to do so now that everybody speaks English. Maybe just one.
See, ethnolinguists tend to love grouping things together into linguistic "families" so they tend to lump everything in the Northeast for example into a couple of few linguistic groups like Algonquinn. I'm like riiiiiiiiiiight. Just try and speak Algonquinn to an Ottowa or an Iriquios. They will be like "hey man, did you know when your mouth moves, all this noise comes out of it?"
As one of the few authors who has actually had work REJECTED by the editors of FreedomsPhoenix (a dubious honor if there ever was one) and as a man who stands flat guilty, filthy dirty guilty of writing and talking too much, a revival of The Great Sign might be one of the only ways to get guys like me to shut up for a change.
I guess that would be CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN. I guess all my writings are like a one-in-a-hundred thing. Maybe one person in 100 of those who reject everything I write as outright drivel says "hey, that's pretty interesting".