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Shadow Sign

For the language of the so-called Honoured Dead, Shadow Sign is an emotionless shadow of a true language. It is more like a battle plan, dreamed up by some stern statue of a general. He has taken a sign language - in all its effortless beauty and graceful dance - and broken its back. Ripped out its heart. Crushed its soul. No, my lord. If you say I must choose between a Conscience and my own language, then I stand loyal and I stand proud.
— From the Sedition trial of Ezelda Kuiper, a deaf Kredasene woman, 96SGC
  Shadow Sign is a sign language used by Consciences to communicate with their hosts and society at large. It is a visual language that relies on handshapes, gestures and body language in order to convey meaning. It is believed to have been derived from an informal sign language used by deaf people in the Raskvaeric capital of Latharin at the start of the new era following the Great Confiscation. Despite this, Shadow Sign shares very few similarities with other Saeric sign languages, and is often shunned by Deaf communities who do not worship the Holy Chorus of Saints. After years of work by educators to develop the Latharin-based sign language into fully functional and codified language, Shadow Sign was recognised as a formal part of the Raskvaerii language at the opening of the Imperial Assembley of Lords in 32 SGC.  

Linguistic Features


Word Order

  A number of other Saeric sign languages exist, the most notable of which are found in Kredashmi and Lormont. These languages have their own unique grammatical structure from the spoken languages, and are therefore not considered to have been derived from, or be influenced by, the other languages. Saeric Sign differs from this because it has adopted the formal sentence structure of spoken Raskvaerii, following the order:  
  • Time
  • Subject
  • Verb
  • Object
  • Location
  The only marked difference is that if a question is being posed, the interogative word has to be placed at the end of the sentence. This is one of the only ways in which Shadow Sign is similar to modern Searic sign languages, as both Kredasene and Lormontai sign requires any question word to be positioned last in its word order.  


  Unlike the other Saeric sign languages, Shadow Sign phonology is entirely reliant on handshape, movement and bodylanguage. Very little emphasis is placed on the usage of non-manual features, with almost non on facial expressions, because the mist-like complexion of a Conscience's blank face betrays on emotion. Where as eyegaze is used in other Saeric sign languages to denote things such as status (e.g. an adult speaking to a child, or a person appealing to the Saints), Consciences will use the motion of their index and middle fingers to physically demonstrate their eyegaze.  


  Letters and numbers are represented by the use of the one-handed, manual alphabet, utilising a person's dominant hand. This differs from other Saeric sign languages, which have two-handed alphabet systems, with the dominant hand acting as a 'pen' to point to the fingers of the 'paper' hand. Unlike other Saeric signers, Consciences cannot mouth the words or numbers they are spelling; instead, non-host recipients will speak each individual letter that they are signed before pronouncing the full word.  


  Unlike other Saeric sign languages, which are subject to regional variations, Shadow Sign is strictly codified and tightly controlled. Slang signs, which are developed amongst the poor or the young, are frequently denounced in sermons and users are fiercely admonished. In 247SGC, a group of apprentices in the Raskvaerii territory of Veyreau, Lormont, were each fined a month's salary for "bastardising the holy language of the Honoured Dead."  


  It is considered improper in Raskvaerii society to converse with another person's Conscience without the permission of the host. However, it is also a terrible social faux pas to greet someone and ignore their manifest Conscience. This has led to the development of a strict, social ettiquette when greeting a person and their Conscience. The host will always be greeted first, followed by Conscience, with the latter being identified by the surname of their host. An exchance might go as follows:

"Good morning, Master Ordesky. Good morning, Conscience-Ordesky."   The greeting to the Conscience will always be signed, as Consciences appear to be unable to hear spoken Raskvaerii or lipread. They are, however, accuately aware of their surroundings despite this.
Placeholder Skeleton by Caitlin Phillips
Language type: Sign language, religious Mother-language: Spoken Raskvaerii Formalised: 32SGC
Usage: Widespread across the Empire. It is now considered to be one of the courtly languages for all Raskvaerii territories, including in Kredashmi and Lormont.


Shadow Sign is an unnatural language, used by fools to communicate with unspeakable abombinations...
— Sedition Trial of Saints-Servant Varfolomei Andreevich, 34 SGC
  After the terrible revelations that followed the Ressurection of the Throwbacks, humankind dedicated itself to the discovery of a way to prevent the Souls of their dead from entering Perdition. Although the identity of the inventor is unknown, by 25SGC, the Saints-Servants had not only learned how to trap a Soul inside a glass vail, but also how to transform the Reliquaried Soul into a Soul Chip. This meant the Soul could be fused with the shadow of a living person, transforming it into a Conscience.   Given the close physical (or perhaps, spiritual) connection between Conscience and host, Consciences are able to understand speech (or the thoughts) of their human. However, the counter-ability is not shared by the living. Due to their incorporeal forms, it proved difficult for early Consciences to communicate with their hosts and the rest of society. An early solution to this came in the form of complex letter boards, where Consciences pointed at individual letters to spell out words. This proved time-consuming and frustrating, and was deemed an unsuitable communication method given the intention to offer Soul Chips to all stratas of society, including the (largely illiterate) poor.   At an assembly of the Saints-Servants in 28SGC, Throwback Cedomir Ilyuhkin challenged the gathered Saints-Servants to create a formal means of communication. In 32SGC, Karr Olezka announced at the opening of the Imperial Assembley of Princes, that Shadow Sign was the new, recognised language of Consciences. All Consciences and those faithful to the Holy Chorus of Saints, would be required to learn this new sign language. Free lessons would be provided by the Mother Temple for all seeking instruction.

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Cover image: by Michael Schaffler


Please Login in order to comment!
27 Dec, 2020 19:22

Nice!! I love that folks will do a dual greeting: "Good morning, Master Ordesky. Good morning, Conscience-Ordesky." Very nice worldbuilding touch--I can see that working nicely in a character interaction. :D

Master Brinsmead
Caitlin Phillips
28 Dec, 2020 22:11

Thank you so much for your kind words, Dani! That really picked me up tonight! :)

Cait x
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
27 Dec, 2020 21:42

I love that it is seen as a souless (heh) language amongst deaf people, due to the lack of facial expressions and stuff like that. XD Like Dani, I love the dual greeting thing! :D

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Master Brinsmead
Caitlin Phillips
28 Dec, 2020 22:11

Thank you so much! :D

Cait x
9 Jan, 2021 01:34

This is very interesting, and I like the thought given to the natural consequences of something that is different from our world -- that's top shelf worldbuilding. If I have a critique, it's that a person who does not know your world is required to do a lot of searching around to understand what is going on here before it is explained. It would help if the articles linked were finished, or if the mouseover functions on those articles were filled in, or if tooltips were used more extensively. I assume that the world is relatively new and that's your eventual intent. Otherwise, this is really clever. Well done!

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga Eater of pickles, Friend of nerds, First of her name
Master Brinsmead
Caitlin Phillips
10 Jan, 2021 21:00

Dear Diane, thank you so much for your feedback. Your comment had really given me something to smile about after a very tough week.   My world is very new to World Anvil, unfortunately, and I have a lot more work to do with finishing articles and figuring out how to use the mouseover functions. I definitely hope to get the overall presentation of this world a lot more reader-friendly in the future. :) Thank you!

Cait x