Federal holidays.

Just had a 4 day weekend. It would have been ideal for working on this project, but I decided to spend the weekend with friends and do nothing productive.
Now that I am back to the daily grind, I can continue my research with the kindle-powered search method.

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One More Thing

Light be praised for the Kindle. Some keywords to search within each book

Wise One

Yup. Awesome. I am excited to get some initial results using the Kindle search method.

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Maiden Handtalk vs Seanchan

Sonea Sedai asked me a question today at http://www.tarvalon.net.

“Have you researched how it differs to The Empress (May She Live Forever)?”

Short answer is no.  Though I did consider researching both languages briefly, I ultimately decided to focus solely on Maiden Handtalk for the time being.

In the real world (aka Not Randland), every place has its own signed language.  Each Deaf culture develops it separately from the others.  Even within the United States, American Sign Language differs slightly by region.

Though every nationality in Randland speaks some form of English, I think it would be foolish to assume that the Maidens and the Seanchan developed similar manual languages.  While both languages were developed for privacy, the culture and the needs of the culture have many more differences that indicate 

Maiden Handtalk likely came into being for Maidens to communicate with each other casually as well as while scouting.  It might prove to be much more utilitarian.

The Empress uses her sign language as a way of not speaking to lesser beings.  This means that her language could be less subtle in an effort to remind the lesser beings that they are not worthy of her real voice.

Also, each culture is secluded from the other.  It would be a confusing miracle if two obscure languages (even though they both evolved from Old Tongue> English) would be similar.

Let’s look at American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL).

Both countries speak English (or something similar).  Their sign languages differ greatly.  ASL has a one-handed alphabet, and BSL’s uses both hands.  We could say that the Maidens might use an alphabet like ASL’s in order to be able to communicate with one hand while they hold their weapon with the other.  The Empress might use an alphabet similar to BSL because she has both hands available, and it is much more noticeable and mystifying to watch.

I would like to look into this with a more discerning eye, but I have decided to dedicate to the Maidens for now.  I am not saying that I do not want to do some research on the Seanchan and the Empress’s language later, but for now I must focus my efforts on the Far Dareis Mai.

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Facts, Assumptions, and Questions: Part I

Robert Jordan says very little specifically about Maiden Handtalk in the books of the Wheel of Time. We see a lot of “her fingers flashed…” but hardly anything precise. A single chapter in the sixth book, Lord of Chaos, tells us much of what we know about the language.

In the 19th Chapter, “Matters of Toh”, we find that new maidens are first taught the phrase, “I have toh.” In the same chapter, we see that a hooked little finger can add mockery to a statement.

“Liah signed back without pause. Very small, spear-sister.
Aviendha smiled gratefully for the missing hooked little finger that would have made the term mocking, used to women who gave up the spear and then tried to behave as if they had not.”

The term to which the narrative refers is “spear-sister”. We know that adding a hooked pinky for the sign for “spear-sister”, we are talking about a derisive term for a former Maiden who longs to still be a spear-sister in truth.

This scene shows us that Maiden Handtalk is a thorough language in which one can express complex ideas and even carry out heated arguments.

It also raises many questions. Can a hooked finger be added to any word or name to make it condescending? Is Maiden Handtalk (unlike American Sign Language) a word-for-word translation of English or does it have its own unique syntax and grammar?

As there is not much about the language itself in the books, I feel that I must form the language around the cultural framework that Robert Jordan has provided through context clues and the Big White Book.

As a military officer, I was taught to list facts and assumptions before beginning a mission to generate relevant questions. Then I can begin honestly crafting the language.

Facts from BWB: Chapter 20:
The Aiel live in a desert that they call the Three Fold Land.
Aiel warriors (men and women) wear brown, grey, beige clothes called cadin’sor.
Aiel Wisewomen wear brown, grey, beige skirts, shirts, and shawls.
High-ranking Aiel women wear jewelry while Maidens wear hardly any.
Maidens and male warriors keep their hair very short except for a tail at the nape of the neck.
Aiel are tall, tanned and light-haired with light colored eyes.
Aiel refuse to fight with swords, they only use weapons that have practical uses in every day life such as spears, knives, and bows.
Aiel live by a code of conduct with honor as the central tenant called Ji’e’toh.
Aiel allow and encourage their women to be strong warriors.
The Aiel are divided into clans.
The Aiel come from the Da’shain Aiel who served the Aes Sedai during the Age of Legends.
Da’Shain Aiel were devoted to pacifism even if it meant their own deaths.
Tuatha’an emerged from the Da’shain Aiel during the Breaking in order to find the Old Song and remain dedicated to the Way of the Leaf.
The Aiel cover their faces before killing-a tradition that originated after the Breaking and after the first kill by an Aiel upon renouncing the Way of the Leaf.
Morin was the first Maiden of the Spear, or Far Dareis Mai.
Maidens may not have children or be married.
Maidens are often used as scouts.
Blacksmiths, children, and new mothers cannot be made gai’shain.
Gai’shain dress in white and are not permitted to fight during their period of servitude (1year + 1 day).
All channelers become Wise Ones, but not all Wise Ones can channel.
It is socially unacceptable for a Wise One to take part in battle.
Each clan has a Roofmistress (chief’s wife) who can choose to turn away any visitor (or even her own husband).
They Aiel value knowledge and books.
Only the chief of a Clan owns a chair.
Polygamy is common among Aiel men. No woman has ever had multiple husbands.
Though the Da’shain Aiel were great singers, modern Aiel only sing into battle or at funerals.

Facts from LOC: Chapter 19:
To tell a Maiden that she will or should marry is very insulting (Lord of Chaos, Matters of Toh, 417)
“I have toh” is the first phrase a new Maiden learns (Lord of Chaos, Matters of Toh, 417)

Because of Morin’s stringent guidelines she promoted to other women, the Maidens of the Spear are the most capable and effective group of warriors among the Aiel, as the male warriors do not have such demands.
-Maidens are very proud and use “dancing the spears” to prove their worth among warriors and to their community.
Women are very powerful, perhaps equal to the Aiel men despite still having transitional gender roles.
That a Maiden would be offended by the suggestion of marriage shows that the Maidens are very proud and value their own honor over settling down with a man.
Maidens are able to communicate many of their ideas with only one hand or with very subtle movements so they can remain very still and maintain their weapons while scouting.

Is Maiden Handtalk word-for-word translated from English?
Why is the history of the Aiel so devastating to the current generation of Aiel?
How long ago was Maiden Handtalk created?
-Did it evolve from a language that existed among the Da’shain Aiel as a means of communicating silently?
-Was it created after the first few women became Maidens, living among men in tents?
-Was it born after Maidens became highly-skilled scouts?

Already I have a few ideas about several of the signs. I still feel that more research is necessary, however. I need to know as much as possible about the culture so I can accurately portray the signs. As I reread the series, I will update with more facts, assumptions, and questions.

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I’m starting out the research process with the logical resource–The Big White Book.  

Page 31 talks of Avendesora. 

But now the cat has decided I need a break and has chosen to tell me via lying on my keyboard.  Thanks, Cat.

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Maiden Handtalk

The last Wheel of Time book, A Memory of Light is out.  It has been read if not absorbed and fully comprehended.

I feel that now I really must dive in head first into a thorough reread.

With what purpose?  The series is done!

Right.  All the better to pick out the subtle foreshadowing and symbolism.

Also, to finally undertake my duty, which does seem heavier than a mountain.  It’s a BIG project.

I reread to understand the Aiel culture and people so as to create Maiden Handtalk.

I am a polyglot and user/lover of a signed language (American Sign Language).  I love learning about anthropology and culture.  And most of all, I love the Wheel of Time and I want to give something of substance to the community that has given me so much.

My experiences as a fighter, a signer, and an historian (along with a little help from my friends) will give me all the tools I need to do justice to this culture-rich language.

This is going to be fun, I promise.

-Saki Sedai

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