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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Kenku are mimics, they can not speak, only repeat and this is part of there lore, they are uncreative and derivative, if smart and craft at times.

    But what happens if you taught one sign language? (assuming one existed in D&D but let's say it does for the sake of argument). As mentioned they could not create one, but if somebody taught one how, would they still be bound by the restrictions of only being able to mimic, or could they use sign to 'talk' normally?
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Shouldn't this be in 5e? Kenkus could speak and talk just fine in 3.5 and 4.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    I'm not a fan of the 5e "kenku can only mimic" thing. So I'd give them sign language off the bat to get around it.
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    Shouldn't this be in 5e? Kenkus could speak and talk just fine in 3.5 and 4.
    Pathfinder too, so I'm guessing this is indeed a 5th thing.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    I don't get it. If they can mimic words they hear and they understand what the words mean, isn't that "speaking"?

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    Lightbulb Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonkingofth View Post
    Kenku are mimics, they can not speak, only repeat and this is part of there lore, they are uncreative and derivative, if smart and craft at times...[snip]
    The problems with Kenku according to the 5e lore in Volo's is NOT that they lack the ability to produce sound that symbolizes meaning (i.e., speaking). The problem with Kenku is that they lack the most basic component of producing language: abstract thinking and creativity. Language is symbolic communication. On the most fundamental level, there is no difference between sign languages (e.g., American Sign Language, French Sign Language) and oral languages (e.g., oral speaking versions of English, French, Japanese, Swahili, Arabic). So, teaching a hand-based (wing-based?) communication form would not solve the abstract thinking and creativity piece of the problem.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sign Language and the Brain: A Review (2007)
    Signed language, like spoken language, makes special use of the left perisylvian regions of the brain. Where differences can be shown between sign and speech they can, on the whole, be ascribed to the different input modalities of the language system—auditory for spoken language, visuospatial for signed language. The specialization of cortical networks for language processing does not appear to be driven either by the acoustic requirements for hearing a spoken language or by the articulatory requirements for speaking. It seems likely, therefore, that it is the specialized requirements of language processing itself, including, for instance, compositionality, syntax, and the requirements of mapping coherent concepts onto a communicable form, that determine the final form of the specialized language circuits in the brain.
    Full Article here.

    In other words, in the real world, the only meaningful difference is that sign language enter the brain through the eyes and that oral languages enter the brain through the ears. The fundamentals of language are independent of the input jacks and have very little to do with how the input is received.

    Or, examined from another angle, bees possess a complex form of communication skills, but most people do not believe that they possess a language of communication because of they lack the abstract, creative, symbolic aspects of language.

    Of course, in your world, you could always state that the curse for Kenku is limited to oral language. But, if they could communicate easily and creatively through sign language then they should be able to do the same with written language. So that would be a pretty big loop hole in the curse.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    As soon as I posted, I realized EXACTLY what the Kenku curse is in 5e: All Kenku have Broca's Aphasia! Humanoids with broca's aphasia have receptive language but lack expressive language. That is, people with Broca's aphasia can listen to you and read but they have great difficulty with speaking and writing.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grog Logs View Post
    As soon as I posted, I realized EXACTLY what the Kenku curse is in 5e: All Kenku have Broca's Aphasia!
    Not to be confused with Brock's dysphasia, or the compulsive need to explain obvious events while they occur to anyone nearby.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    Brock's dysphasia (snip)
    I don't get the reference

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    I don't get it. If they can mimic words they hear and they understand what the words mean, isn't that "speaking"?
    That's my problem, too. It's really rather incoherent. The vast majority of the time, you learn words by hearing them (100% of the time in preliterate societies).

    More importantly, language issues quickly get tedious at the table. It slows everything down because one player wants a character who wants to play charades. In my homebrew, kenku have the 10,000 words - a collection of words passed down and taught as the kids grow up so they can express themselves. It's still a bit weird, though, as most kenku will say a given word with the exact same voice and inflection. They also have the problem of not being able to change the tone of a word unless they happened to have heard the word with the tone they want. If a player wanted to mimic this, I guess they could speak as if they had flat affect.
    Last edited by Stan; 2018-08-04 at 09:18 PM.

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    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grog Logs View Post
    I don't get the reference
    Pokemon, maybe?
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    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    I don't get it. If they can mimic words they hear and they understand what the words mean, isn't that "speaking"?
    The idea, I guess, is that kenku (in 5e, yes) lack their own voices. Based on the rest of their curse, it seems to be a limit on their creativity: in 5e, everything kenku make or "say" is an imitation. A perfect one, but an imitation nonetheless. The problem, or further problem, is that they can substitute sounds for ideas. So basically, every group of kenku actually have a complex and unique dialect. Which they made up. You know, creatively. Which they've been cursed to not be able to do. Honestly, the kenku have a cool idea, being perfect mimics who lack unique voices or language. The problem is, someone tried to explain why they're like that and the reason given (lacking creativity) runs counter to a kenku being able to substitute the sound of a frightened dog as a warning for danger (which is the sort of thing they're described as doing).
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grog Logs View Post
    The problems with Kenku according to the 5e lore in Volo's is NOT that they lack the ability to produce sound that symbolizes meaning (i.e., speaking). The problem with Kenku is that they lack the most basic component of producing language: abstract thinking and creativity. Language is symbolic communication. On the most fundamental level, there is no difference between sign languages (e.g., American Sign Language, French Sign Language) and oral languages (e.g., oral speaking versions of English, French, Japanese, Swahili, Arabic). So, teaching a hand-based (wing-based?) communication form would not solve the abstract thinking and creativity piece of the problem.
    I don't have Volo's within range, but if I were to assume your statement is true then it kind of contradicts what the Monster Manual states for Kenku in the 'Speech in Pantomime' bit.

    "A Kenku asking for money might make the sound of coins clinking together, and a Kenku referring to a busy marketplace can reproduce the cacaphony of hawking vendors, barking dogs, bleating sheep, and the cries of street urchins"

    "Because they are adept at interpreting one another's glances and gestures, the sounds they make to communicate complex ideas or emotions can be succinct" - MM 194


    These snippets alone imply that Kenku do have a grasp of abstract ideas and creativity.

    Imho, the biggest problem is that Kenku "can only repeat words and phrases they have heard, not create new sentences". So with sign language, while they do know the gestures and what each of them means, they're incapable of stringing them together to form a sentence.

    However.

    Since they're adept at conveying abstract ideas and messages and 'can be succinct', they don't need to create long sentences to get the meaning across. The only condition is that they need to have heard all words at least once and know what their meanings are. With spoken language, that's quite the Herculean task given there are so many words. Sign language is much more limited and might be quite a viable alternative.

    My idea would be that a Kenku would be able to 'talk' to others with sign language, much like chimpansees can by pointing at images.

    Chimp points at self, points at picture of banana = I want a banana

    Kenku signs the gestures for 'hungry' and 'banana' = I want a banana

    By this method, a Kenku could very well communicate by using a simple combination of terms/gestures/images. It would lack grammar and other such fluff and is therefore open to misinterpretation by non-Kenku, but in essence it can get the basic points across.
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonkingofth View Post
    Kenku are mimics, they can not speak, only repeat and this is part of there lore, they are uncreative and derivative, if smart and craft at times.

    But what happens if you taught one sign language? (assuming one existed in D&D but let's say it does for the sake of argument). As mentioned they could not create one, but if somebody taught one how, would they still be bound by the restrictions of only being able to mimic, or could they use sign to 'talk' normally?
    The Kenku already know sign language -- the most universal sign is from the native Kenku, and it is known as "flipping the bird" for this very reason.

    But yeah, this is 5e lore and belongs in the 5e forum.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    The Kenku already know sign language -- the most universal sign is from the native Kenku, and it is known as "flipping the bird" for this very reason.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    Not to be confused with Brock's dysphasia, or the compulsive need to explain obvious events while they occur to anyone nearby.
    That's just anime Lancers in general isn't it? See also Ishida, Piccolo, Miroku, Joey Wheeler, Gray Fullbuster...

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    The Mod Wonder: Moved

    However, it sounds like they tried for a neat idea but it didn't work when you examined it.

    Like R2-D2. He clearly understands basic, and he produces sounds from his speakers... but for some reason can't produce words, just emotive chirps in binary.
    Last edited by Mark Hall; 2018-08-10 at 10:11 AM.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    The problem with sign language is that the recipient has too understand the language as well. Most NPCs are probably not going to understand the language. Neither will the PCs unless they burn a language slot or the GM is generous.

    But I don't really don't see the kenku curse as being all that debilitating. In fact I plan on playing a kenku when my current character dies (which is likely to happen soon given the current circumstances).

    My plan is to talk in brief phrases and change my voice. I'll also tweak the content to make it sound like it's for a different conversation. The idea being to make it sound like I'm quoting someone I heard earlier in life.

    And I plan on writing down what other players say in character and re use them later on. I might even try to playfully mimic their voice.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    The problem with the Kenku is not that they can't communicate, it's just they can't verbally communicate using their own expression of what they know, because they are cursed.

    An high-CHA Kenku could have no problem do an eloquent speech that bring tears in the eyes of the listeners.

    It's just that this speech would be made of words they remember hearing, copypasted one after the other to form a sentence.

    A Kenku would also no problem writing things down, if needed.

    So I don't see why they couldn't use sign language or any other codes.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    It's weird that Kenku can probably abstract well enough to make forgeries that say different things than were on the original document.

    Broca's Aphasia may be a better explanation. If they had Brock's aphasia then they would sound like a YouTube poop of every shonen combat commentator ever.

    "Whoa! -- I can't believe Pikachu used -- kamehameha on his first try -- to beat Kaiba -- ,Kuwabara!"
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    It's weird that Kenku can probably abstract well enough to make forgeries that say different things than were on the original document.
    Kenku can write just fine, it's just talking they can't do.

    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    Broca's Aphasia may be a better explanation. If they had Brock's aphasia then they would sound like a YouTube poop of every shonen combat commentator ever.

    "Whoa! -- I can't believe Pikachu used -- kamehameha on his first try -- to beat Kaiba -- ,Kuwabara!"
    That's basically what Kenku sounds like. Youtube Poop characters.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    Broca's Aphasia may be a better explanation. If they had Brock's aphasia then they would sound like a YouTube poop of every shonen combat commentator ever.

    "Whoa! -- I can't believe Pikachu used -- kamehameha on his first try -- to beat Kaiba -- ,Kuwabara!"
    Basically, Kenku are the verbal equivalent of these letters this weird girl I know sends me.

    Actually, this might be a serial killer. Please help.
    Last edited by Snowbluff; 2018-08-10 at 01:53 PM.
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Manbirds from ugly America anyone...no just me ok.
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    This thread is being way too tediously over-analytical.

    Kenku are a race that is there to inspire someone who wants an RP challenge involving mimicry and creativity.

    It opens up a novel RP style that goes beyond 'europe with elves' into Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal or Time Bandits territory.

    it doesn't need rock-solid, completely sensible, scientifically supported lore. It's fun as hell.

    I'd also say the whole idea of 'getting around it' misses the point. It's the kind of thing that needs to be leaned into, hard.
    Last edited by Beelzebubba; 2018-08-11 at 03:35 PM.
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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    I don't get it. If they can mimic words they hear and they understand what the words mean, isn't that "speaking"?
    Yes, which is why this whole Kenku Kenku can only mimic words thing is really dumb. Especially if they can play Wizards, which pretty much 100% have to understand a language of some kind.
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    This thread is being way too tediously over-analytical.
    this is giant in the playground you know. Being tediously over-analytical is a very large part of what I've seen here

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    I think if you taught them sign language they could only talk what they have seen. There is a curse on them.

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    Default Re: What happens if you taught a kenku sign language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonkingofth View Post
    Kenku are mimics, they can not speak, only repeat and this is part of there lore, they are uncreative and derivative, if smart and craft at times.

    But what happens if you taught one sign language? (assuming one existed in D&D but let's say it does for the sake of argument). As mentioned they could not create one, but if somebody taught one how, would they still be bound by the restrictions of only being able to mimic, or could they use sign to 'talk' normally?
    I tell my players "he sounds like a good/bad splice job" with emotion that may not match what is being discussed. from different speakers with kenku. Any race with the limitation noted would at some point pay someone to speak single words to them & teach those single words to their kids.

    A kenku spotting a beholder might have only heard the word from a bard telling a scary tavern tale , so you might get "EEEEE RUN a beehooooollllll-der." whereas if their first time hearing beholder was the shriek of terror from someone watching a pale green disintegration ray strike their ally who is currently in the process of becoming a pile of dust, the next instance might be a terrified sounding "B.BEHOLDER!!!!!" even though they were just in a tavern working out a strategy for how they are going to face a beholder they got hired to kill.

    Another possability is that they simply don't have a memory that works the same as most other races. Take this article about birds.

    Quote Originally Posted by tfa
    Perfect pitch
    Cognitive scientists Micah Bregman, Aniruddh Patel, and Timothy Gentner thought there was something missing in our understanding of how songbirds recognize one another’s tunes. Songbirds are very good at learning and recognizing melodies, but they have a curious limitation that humans don’t have: they don’t recognize the same melody in different keys. If someone plays “Mary Had a Little Lamb” starting on a particular note and then plays it again starting on a different note, humans have no problem recognizing that it’s the same song because the notes in the song are still all the same distance apart. Songbirds can’t do this.

    The team, led by Gentner, writes that this has led to a widespread expectation that songbirds use absolute pitch to recognize songs. Rather than hearing how far one note is from the next note and using that information to remember how songs sound (like most humans do), absolute pitch means knowing what each note sounds like on its own—recognizing the frequency of the sound wave. When humans do this, we call it perfect pitch.

    Gentner’s team argues that there's a problem with this idea: all the previous work investigating songbird pitch perception had used simple sounds. But sounds in the real world are rarely simple. They rarely consist of a pure sound wave oscillating on its own at a particular frequency. Instead, they’re a whole bundle of waves moving at the same time, creating a complex sound made up of numerous frequencies called harmonics. Using complex sounds would be a more accurate test of birds’ natural abilities, the researchers write.

    In humans, the processing of complex sounds is very important because it’s how we understand speech. The sound waves sent out by our voice boxes pick up additional frequencies created by the shape of our throats and mouths, and we use our tongues and lips to shape these additional frequencies and make a wide range of speech sounds. For instance, each vowel has a different set of relationships between all the simultaneous sound waves our throats and mouths produce. That’s why an “aaa” sounds like an “aaa,” even if it’s produced by the teeny throat of a two-year-old child or the monstrous laryngeal cavity of a professional wrestler—the relationships between the frequencies in the sound are the same, even if the pitch is very different.
    see article for more
    Last edited by Tetrasodium; 2018-08-12 at 05:37 PM.

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