Martha's Lumberyard

There's an interesting article in the Green Bay Press Gazette today about a "sign language" developed over the last hundred or so years in a lumberyard on the Menominee reservation. I put "sign language" in quotes because my first smart-arse reaction was to doubt it. Bloody hearing people. It's probably cultural appropriation. Or something. I dunno. However, while I entirely expect that it is not as sophisticated or fleshed out as sign languages evolving over thousands of years within large Deaf communities, it certainly meets all of Hockett's "essential characteristics"* of human languages that BSL or ASL does, and it is certainly an interesting thing!

It sprung up organically through the force of several generations of workers struggling to make themselves understood in the noisy environment of a sawmill over the last 110 years, and it’s something to behold.
— Paul Srubas, Green Bay Press Gazette, April 5th 2018

Apparently nobody has ever studied it, or done any more than one or two little press-pieces about it. I think it would be a wonderful opportunity to produce a unique piece of linguistic research. An interview with a couple of generations would cover the entire language history.

Their sign for 'drunk' looks great too.

* Hockett, Charles F. (1960), "The Origin of Speech," Scientific American, 203, 89–97.

Jim Cromwell