Queen Germal using sign language

Sign language was a gestural means of communication used by humanoids and other species. It was a language primarily used by those unable to speak — either through deafness or by lacking a larynx — and by races that used gestures to supplement orally-conveyed information.

Hand signals and gestures predated speech in many cultures. (TNG episode: "Loud as a Whisper", TTN novel: Orion's Hounds)

Many different forms of sign language have been developed. Some forms were made for use in combat, sometimes designed so as to be difficult to interpret even when read by imaging sensors. (TNG episode: "Loud as a Whisper", TOS novel: Captain's Blood)

Chimpanzees were taught a form of sign language on Earth, one which was similar to that used by the Isitri. (TOS novels: The Prometheus Design, Troublesome Minds)

History Edit

10,000 years ago, colonial Herculese began enslaving the native Yerba. After birth, their speech centers were surgically removed, forcing them to communicate exclusively with sign language. (TOS comic: "The Animal People")

In 2249, when Nyota Uhura was 10 years old, she learned to sign in order to communicate with her deaf cousin Epala. It spurred an interest in the field of communications. (TOS novel: The Disinherited)

In 2266, a signing message from captured Yerba Queen Germal was projected onto clouds so that her people could all see the message. She had been ordered to sign a surrender message, but to prevent the genocide of her race she instead ordered a declaration of war against the Herculese. (TOS comic: "The Animal People")

In 2267, Nyota Uhura was temporarily assigned to the USS Lexington to serve as an interpreter for Commodore Robert Wesley on a diplomatic mission to Rithra. Rithram communication was oral but supplemented with gestures which the universal translator could not translate. (TOS novel: The Disinherited)

In 2269, Ensign Sara George from the USS Enterprise recorded personality scans of natives on Kyros. To get close enough to set up the equipment, she behaved like she was mute, communicated with sign language, and rented a room at an inn. The scans fed data into telescan cephalic implants. (TOS novel: Spock, Messiah!)

Also in 2269, after inadvertently transporting a a six-year-old Lactran aboard the Enterprise, Montgomery Scott attempted to communicate with it on the bridge. After failing with speech, Scott then tried using Federation sign language. (TAS - Log Eight novelization: The Eye of the Beholder)

In 2270, Chista served as an interpreter for a landing party from the Enterprise to Isitra Zero. The telepathic Isitri had simplistic speech centers, and developed gestural languages to communicate with those born without telepathic capabilities. Many Isitri were deaf. (TOS novel: Troublesome Minds)

Loud as a Whisper

Riva using sign language.

In 2365, the Federation starship USS Enterprise-D took the deaf-mute mediator Riva to Solais V to lead a delicate peace negotiation. He expected to be able to use his telepathic 'chorus' to talk, but they were murdered by a dissident. Data became fluent in five sign languages to communicate with Riva and serve as his replacement interpreter. But Riva improvised instead, intending to teach sign language to both sides and create a common experience between them. (TNG episode: "Loud as a Whisper")

After 2368, universal translators were updated to record tonal and gestural information, with input from Sofia Borges from her research on the Tomarian language, which had layers of meaning contained in vocal pitch, gesture and posture. (TNG - The Sky's the Limit short story: "Friends With the Sparrows")

In 2372, Jake Sisko and Tol Elliena used sign language to communicate with rapidly-growing children on a generational colony ship from the Andromeda Galaxy. (DS9 novel: Trial by Error)

Sign language usersEdit

Signing speciesEdit





AltarAndorian languages (AndoriiGraalen/GraalekGreater AndorianLesser Andorian) • Bajoran (BalwanOld BajoranOld High Bajoran) • Beta Promethean • Earth languages (Anglo-SaxonBasqueCelticEnglishFarsiFrenchGaelicGermanGreekHebrew/YiddishIboItalianJapaneseLatinMandarinRussianSpanishSwahiliTagalogWelsh) • EsperantaFederation Standard (Galacta) • Ferengi (Trading Tongue) • Galacta (Federation Standard) • GornGrennaiKlingonese (Battle LanguageKlin trade patoisKlingonaaseKumburanRumaiynta'HoltlhIngan Hol/pIqaDWarrior's Tongue) • MakaroNemarOld HebitianOld High MartianOld IllyanOlisuOmearanOrion language (High OrionKolariLow OrionTrader's Tongue/Trader's ScriptYrevish) • OrishanPaklitPayavPeRealm DialectRemanRigellian Trade DialectRomulan (RihannsuHigh RihanLow RihanOld High Rihannsu) • Sign languageSeshtoTaklathiTarnTellaran (Civil Conversation) • TholianTzikaa!nVeganVulcan (Ancient VulcanHigh TongueModern VulcanOld High Vulcan) • XenexianXlatitigu

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