A Stipulation of Terms from Maternal Hopi
 
 by Hollis Frampton
 
 

 

Nearly a year has elapsed since the discovery, at Oaxaca and Tehuantepec, of three caches of proto-American artifacts of a wholly unprevisioned
nature; so that some sort of provisional report on them is long overdue. I must apologize at the outset for what must seem, to colleagues
unacquainted with the unprecedented difficulties posed by the material, an excess of scholarly caution. In fact, I have proceeded with all possible
haste in dealing with a body of data that has proved, to date, resistant to study by canonical methods.

I am bound to acknowledge that whatever little understanding I have achieved, has come largely through the perseverance and generosity of Dr. Raj Chatterjee, who heads the Project in Artificial Intelligence at Alleghany University; I owe him an insight that he first expressed with characteristic tersity: "We are obliged to assume that this stuff means something!"

My readers will recall that the archaeological finds in question were at once uncomplicated and singularly copious. All three sites included large silver mirrors, figured to remarkable flatness, and scores of transparent bottles, lenticular in shape and of varying curvature. But the bulk of the contents of those granite vaults (immediately dubbed "archives" by the sensational press) consisted of some 75,000 identical copper solar emblems, in the form of reels, each of which was wound with about 300 meters of a transparent substance, uniformly 32 millimeters wide, that proved, upon microscopic examination, to be made of dried and flattened dog intestine.

Complete cataloguing and analysis of this treasure will require many years; therefore, what follows is of necessity conjectural.

Of the culture of the artificers very little is apparent. They were men of the Cro-Magnon type of Homo sapiens, organized in a stable agrarian
matriarchy, and calling themselves ]N[. Their food consisted of cultivars of maize, and a variety of vegetables and fruits; dogs of medium size were bred as a source of edible protein and textile fiber, but were not used for work. The ]N[ worked stone and the native metals (copper, silver and gold), and were particularly adept in the technology of glass. A partly subterranean dome about 10 meters in diameter, similar to the hogan of the Navajo, was the uniform shelter.

What took place within these domes distinguishes the civilization of the ]N[ from all other known societies. They seem to have spent most of their
time and energy in making and using the pictogram rolls, which were optically projected upon the walls. Sunlight, led indoors by an intricate system of mirrors, served as the illuminant. Images were brought to focus by lenses of water contained in glass bottles. At what rate the projected images succeeded one another is unknown.

What function this activity may have had is matter for speculation. The pictogram - offer internal evidence that the projections served both
educational and religious ends. Images of deities (if that is indeed what they are) occur with some frequency: they are depicted as human in scale, differing from the ]N[ themselves only in that their faces are without mouths, and their eyes, always open, are extremely large.

These strips are divided along their entire length into square cellular modules each 32 millimeters high. Each such square bears a handpainted
pictogram or glyph. The colors black (lampblack in a vehicle derived from the leaves of Aloe vera) and red (expressed from cochineal insects) predominate. There is seldom any obvious resemblance between consecutive pictograms. The draftsmanship is everywhere meticulous.

The dry climate has kept everything in a state of exquisite preservation; it is expected that lamination in polyester, nowadays a standard curatorial procedure, will offset a slight tendency to brittleness in the picture rolls. Oxygen dating places their fabrication during the 8th and 9th centuries before the present era, with a margin of error of only four per cent.

The pictograms clearly constitute a language. The semantic unit, however, is not the single glyph, but a cluster of two or more pictures which
denote the limits of a significance; where there are three or more, the images serve as points defining a "curve" of meaning.

The connection between this visible language and speech is remote, and recalls the tenuous relationship between the ideograms of literary Chinese and their corresponding vernacular. Nevertheless, it has been my good fortune to decipher a few fragments, in privileged communication with a living female respondent in Hopi, and to establish clearly that the language of the ancient reels is ancestral to the secret languages, ritually forbidden to men and initiated male adolescents, that are to this very day spoken, only by women among themselves, throughout the remnant of the Mixto-Athapascan psycholinguistic community. 

The parent tongue exhibits a number of unique traits. To begin with, it was a speech-and-stance language, with each component modifying the
other. Since the picture rolls identify meaningful postures numbering in the thousands, it is doubtful that a one-to-one dictionary between English
and ]N[]T[ can ever be constructed.

Secondly, the language was made up entirely of verbs, all other 'parts of speech' deriving from verbal states. A 'noun' is seen merely as an
instantaneous cross-section through an action or process.

The inflexional structure of the language was vast, exceeding in size that of Sanskrit by at least an order of magnitude, to which was added an array of proclitic and enclitic particles, of uncertain usage, seemingly derived by onomatopoeia from the sounds of the breath, as inspired and expired during different sorts of effort.

The verb stem consisted of one or more invariable consonants, or clusters of consonants.

The grammar varied, according to intricate rules of euphony as well as meaning, the vowels and diphthongs in the initial, medial and final positions
that I have indicated with square brackets in the glossary that follows.

I append the few terms that I have thus far managed to decode. The reader is warned that multiple ambiguities of the sort found under ]K[]SK[, ]V[]TR[, ]Y[]X[, ]N[]T[, and ]L[]L[]X[ are the rule. Apparent exceptions are simply illustrative of defects in my own comprehension.


1. [] =The radiance.
2. ]DpY[ = Containers to be opened in total darkness. 
3. ]PS[]L[ = A drug used by women to dilate the iris of the eye.
4. ]H[]H[]L[ = Epithet of the star ]S[]S[]N[*, used while succulents are in bloom.
5. ]PT[]Y] = Last light seen by one dying in the fifth duodecad of life.
6. ]XN[ = Heliotrope.
7. ]TL[]D[ = Rotating phosphenes of 6 or 8 arms. 
8. ]BN[]T[ = Shadow cast by light of lesser density upon light of greater.
9. ]V[]TR[ = The pineal body; time.
10. ]XR[ = The sensation of sadness at having slept through a shower of meteors.
11. ]MR[][ = The luster of resin from the shrub ]R[]R[, which fascinates male babies.
12. ]NX[]KT[ = The light that congeals about vaguely imagined objects.
13. ]DR[]KL[ = Phosphorescence of one's father, exposed after death.
14. ]SMpN[ = Fireworks in celebration of a firstborn daughter.
15. ]GN[]T[]N[ = Translucence of human flesh.
16. ]TM[]X[]T[ = Delight at sensing that one is about to awaken.
17. ]TS[]H[ = Shadow cast by the comet ]XT[ upon the surface of the sun.
18. ]R[]D[ = An afterimage.**
19. ]D[]DR[ = A white supernova reported by alien traveller.
20. ]K[]SK[ = A cloud; mons Veneris.
21. ][]Z[]S[ = Ceremonial lenses, made of ice brought down from the high mountains.
22. ]KD[]X[ = Winter moonlight, refracted by a glass vessel filled with the beverage ]NK[]T[.
23. ]P[]M[]R[ = Changes in daylight initiated by the arrival of a beloved person unrelated to one.
24. ]G[]S[ = Gridded lightning seen by those born blind.
25. ]W[]N[]T[ = An otherwise unexplained fire in a dwelling inhabited only by women.
26. ]G[]GN[ = The sensation of desiring to see the color of one's own urine.
27. ]M[]K[ = Snowblindness.
28. ]H[]R[ = Unexpected delight at seeing something formerly displeasing.
29. ]H[]ST[ = The arc of a rainbow defective in a single hue.
30. ]L[]L[]X[ = The fovea of the retina; amnesia. 
31. ][]R[ = The sensation of satisfaction at having outstared a baby.
32. ]ST[ = Improvised couplets honoring St. Elmo's Fire.
33. ]V[]D[ = The sensation of indifference to transparency.
34. ]Z[]TS[ = Either of the colors brought to mind by the fragrance of plucked ]TR[ ferns.
35. ]X[]H[ = Royal expedition in search of a display of Aurora Borealis.
36. ]T[]K[]N[ = Changes in daylight that frighten dogs.
37. ]Y[]X[ = The optic chiasmus (Colloq.); abysmal; testicles.
38. ]N[][]T[ = The twenty-four heartbeats before the first heartbeat of sunrise.
39. ]F[]X[ = A memory of the color violet, reported by those blinded in early infancy.
40. ]T[]Y[]Y[ = The sensation of being scrutinized by a reptile.
41. ]B[]NM[ = Mute.***
42. ]N[]T[]N[ = The sound of air in a cave; a reverie lasting less than a lunar month; long dark hair.
43. ]S[]TY[ = The light that moves against the wind. 
44. ]B[][ = Changes in one's shadow, after one's lover has departed in anger.
45. ]N[]GR[ = The fish Anableps, that sees in two worlds.
46. ]RZ[]R[ = The sensation of longing for an eclipse of the Moon.
47. ]H[]F[ = Stropharia cubensis.
48. ]S[]LR[ = Familiar objects within the vitreous humor.
49. ]W[]X[][ = A copper mirror that reflects only one's own face.
50. ]MN[]X[ = Temporary visions consequent upon trephining.
51. ]G[][]KR[ = Cataract.
52. ]RNpW[ = Hypnagogues incorporating unfamiliar birds.
53. ]M[]D[ = A dream of seeing through one eye only.


* Probably Fomalhaut (alpha Piscis Australis). 

** Also used as a classifier of seeds. 

*** Standing epithet of ancestral deities.

 

 

Hollis Frampton