Tradesign is a signed language that is extremely widespread in basic usage, featuring in every marketplace and traveling caravan — anywhere speakers of different languages might be found. The signs are also frequently adapted and co-opted for private or community use among groups as disparate as street gangs and religious sects. However, full fluency in Tradesign is uncommon, as most who adopt it only learn as much as they need to get by on an everyday basis.


handshape, orientation, location, movement, demeanor

Using Sign in RP

Learning Tradesign

The essentials of Tradesign (Basic and Advanced Vocabulary, Structure, Mode) may be taught by a parent or mentor, or simply picked up through attentive observation over time in any given venue where sign is used.

Clear understanding of Tactile Signing can only be acquired through practice, specifically with the student being the 'listener'.

Esoteric Vocabulary requires a teacher to learn from, as it involves words that are not common in everyday usage. Similarly, expertise in Written Tradesign necessitates either instruction in the notation or comprehensive examples of the script that can be deciphered.

Note: Tradesign may not be taken as a PC's native language.

Fields of Expertise

Basic Vocabulary: general, concrete, immediate words — simple transactions and messages; use of shape, orientation
Advanced Vocabulary: superlatives, specifics, time indicators — sufficient for barter, gossip
Esoteric Vocabulary: abstracts, technical terms — use for detailed discussion, hypotheticals
Structure: topic first, duplication, duration, simultaneous classifiers; use of location, movement
Mode: directive, query, attitude, humor — use of demeanor/posture
Tactile Signing: hand over hand, tracking — interpreting signs through touch more than vision

Writing: Tradesign does have a written form; however, in practice there is very little call for writing in Tradesign, and so it can be quite difficult to find a mentor to teach it. The written form is sometimes favored as a code for encrypting documents, not least because relatively few others can be expected to read it. The notation is also often somewhat ambiguous in interpretation, as it is a two-dimensional rendering of communication that has many more facets.

Written Tradesign uses lines and simple symbols to indicate the shapes and orientations of fingers and palms. On the page, these may look like hooks, forks, triangles, boxes, and open circles. Each symbol may be positioned high, low, left, right, or centrally to indicate sign placement. Because of this variation in positioning, there is some effort required to distinguish signs from one another, e.g. is this symbol the right half of sign A, its own sign B, the left half of sign C. Finally, curves are added to imply motion, while dots and lines above or below the symbol indicate repetition and duration. There is no notation for posture or expression, which contributes to the ambiguity of reading; attitude, emotion, and mode are not clearly preserved. There is also no standard punctuation denoting the beginnings and ends of sentences.

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