Conlangery 129 medallion

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Jake Malloy and David Peterson join George to talk about sign language as well as a few other ways humans communicate non-vocally.

Top of Show Greeting: Bakom

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3 Responses to “Conlangery #129: Non-Vocal Languages”

  1. Andrew J Smith

    In my opinion, Sai and Alex’s Gripping language would have been a much better secret language for Count and Countess Fenring than that humming which Frank Herbert described for them. Herbert did describe the Bene Gesserit, however, as having one form of secret communication which combined both speaking and subtle non-vocal gestures. At least I think he did. I know that the Sci-Fi multi-part special “Children of Dune” showed them performing some gestures to augment or change the meanings of their spoken words.

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  2. panglott

    Great topic! I’ve been mulling over a sign language for my main language for a few years now, but have never sat down to put in the work. In my (late medieval-tech) conworld, the imperial family’s clan has a high congenital incidence of deafness, so they sponsor a colony of people with deafness, which is also an institution that welcomes people with deafblindess (from rubella, for example).

    Aside from full sign language, there are a lot of communication systems that use gesture. You mentioned military hand signals for communicating in small groups secretly, but there is also a large class of battlefield signals that use flags or war fans to communicate over long distances. Similar signals are used at sea, or in industrial settings such as among 19th century railroad workers. There were also hand signal systems that approached language used in (extremely noisy) lumberyards, where some signals were shared between labor and the foremen, and some were just used among workers.

    John Varley wrote a beautiful science fiction novella. “The Persistence of Vision”, which won a Nebula in 1979. It’s a speculative take on a new sign language that arose among a community affected by a rubella outbreak, which is very New Wave and toys with Sapir-Whorf, as you would expect. Worth a read.

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