Secret Yendi Signals

Sat Apr 12 13:54:57 PDT 2003

Just a reminder that what Paarfi reports as a brief conversation
is likely to last for an hour...

On Sat, 12 Apr 2003, Mark A Mandel wrote:

> 	[Jessica]
> #> "The Sorceress studied him, then abruptly sheathed her
> #> sword and made a certain motion with the fingers of her
> #> left hand. Upon seeing this, Pel, his eyes widening
> #> slightly, made a similar yet different motion with the
> #> fingers of his left hand, after which the Sorceress said,
> #> 'Follow me, then, my lord Galstan.'"
> #	[...]
> #> So it seems the Yendi use hand signals to identify
> #> themselves to one another.
> #>
> #> So what information is contained in the signals? Rank,
> #> maybe? If it was just a house identifier, presumably the
> #> signals would be the same.
> 	[Gaertk]
> #Its definately a House identifier, but I don't think it gives
> #rank.  I don't think Yendis have ranks (other than titles),
> #and if they did, I doubt they would tell them to strangers
> #(especially strangers from their House; these are Yendi,
> #after all).
> I disagree in part. Imagine a real-world situation: Mr. A is traveling
> in a country far from his own, where a different language is spoken. On
> the street he sees a stranger, Ms. B, whom he guesses to be from the
> same country (by facial appearance, the tune she's whistling, a piece of
> jewelry... it doesn't matter). He approaches her and asks in his native
> language where he can find a "Homelandish" restaurant. Her first
> reaction is surprise at hearing what is indeed her mother tongue, and
> then she tells him that she's on her way to a Homelandish restaurant.
> What would a non-Homelandish observer report? "He said something I
> couldn't understand. Her eyes widened, then she said something similar
> but not quite the same." Very much like Paarfi's report.
> The question is not in itself a recognition signal, but it's a
> vocalization that nobody would produce by chance or by trying to do
> something else (e.g., ask "What time is it?" in some completely
> different language).  The "recognition signal" is the fact that it's in
> Homelandish, supported by its appropriateness to the situation (unlike
> the Homelandish for "I disagree in part" or "My father's delphinium has
> the measles").
> I'm not claiming that the SiG's and Pel's hand signals carried that much
> meaning, or even as much meaning as a single word in a sign language*.
> But gestures can be much more complex and meaning-bearing than they look
> to an uninformed observer, and invented codes often assign complex
> meanings to simple signals. Just imagining, for example: the SiG could
> have made a single sign that meant "I am currently in service to someone
> not of our House. If you have non-hostile business with that person, I
> will assist you within the limits of my authority." And Pel's reply
> could have meant "I am (also) currently in service to someone not of our
> House. I have non-hostile business with your current master, and I
> request your assistance with it."
> Amateur radio operators ("hams") use three-letter Q-signals in Morse
> code to convey specialized meanings concisely. Here's an example from
> http://spiffy.cso.uiuc.edu/~kline/Stuff/q-sigs.html :
> QSK?	"Can you hear me between your signals and if so may I
> 	break in on your transmissions?"
> QSK	"I can hear you between my signals; break in on my
> 	transmissions."
> * Sign languages: My doctoral dissertation was on certain aspects of
> American Sign Language. I used to be able to converse in it, though
> never fluently.
> -- Dr. Whom, Consulting Linguist, Grammarian, Orthoepist, and
>    Philological Busybody
>    a.k.a. Mark A. Mandel
>    http://world.std.com/~mam/Cracks-and-Shards/
>    a Steven Brust Dragaera fan website