The Alplai use different gestures and body language to convey concepts and emotions, due to both cultural and physiological differences. They do not, for example, shake hands as a greeting gesture, as this was only done between warriors in their ancient history (and is thus retained only as a ritual in Saakh fencing bouts). Another typical Terran greeting, waving a hand, is also interpreted differently in each Alplai culture:
- In the Kiitra culture, it is seen as dismissive.
- The Saakh view a raised hand as a command for silence.
- The Konarai see a hand raised above the shoulder as a prelude to a violent strike, and will typically respond with fear.
- The Krishkarha will see a raised hand as a challenge to a fight.
- The Baija read a waving hand as: “Go away, I don’t like you.”
The ovetna and other greeting/parting gestures
The universal sign of greeting among the Alplai is to place the right hand over the chest with fingers spread, and bow slightly. This gesture, called the ovetna, may also be exchanged on parting. The ovetna evolved as a blending of traditional Saakh and Kiitra greeting gestures:
- Saakh nobility and warriors would greet one another by placing the left hand behind in the small of the back, the right hand over the chest with fingers pointed left and elbow straight out, and popping up on the balls of the feet with a slight forward jerk.
- The Kiitra would greet one another by turning both hands with palms facing out while bowing the head.
Krishkarha greeting and parting
The Krishkarha greet one another by two thumps of the right fist on the chest. When parting, the fist is placed in the center of the chest, followed by a stiff slight bow at the waist.
Baija greeting and parting
The Baija greeting gesture starts with raising the right fist, palm facing in, then extending the forearm and opening the hand. For parting, place the right fist inside the open left hand and extend forward.
Konarai greeting and parting
The Konarai have an elaborate greeting and parting ritual, along with a particular etiquette as to who initiates the greeting ritual:
- The individual who is most at home where the greeting takes place is expected to initiate.
- When both are equally at home, or in a strange place, the person who sees the other first initiates.
The ritual involves three major steps, all done while singing a song of thanksgiving to Ajamara:
- The greeter folds both hands over the chest, then spreads them to shoulder height, palms up and fingers relaxed.
- The respondent does the same, then places the left hand over the greeter’s heart.
- The greeter places the left hand over the respondent’s heart, and each places their right hand over the other person’s left.
When a person approaches a Konarai village, all of the villagers will begin greeting them with the first step. The visitor is expected to engage in the full ritual with the nearest person; when a party of visitors approaches, the visitor nearest the village approaches the nearest villager, and other villagers then approach other visitors. Villagers will also welcome visitors with samplings of seasonal foods.
The parting gesture is simpler. Each person places the left hand over the other person’s heart, then places the right hand over the other person’s left. This is usually accompanied with the saying: Ajamara vaza shara (“Ajamara be with you.”)
The Alplai use a method for counting up to ten on one hand:
One – little finger extended
Two – ring and little finger extended
Three – middle, ring and little finger extended
Four – index, middle, ring and little finger extended
Five – thumb extended, other fingers folded
Six – thumb and index finger extended
Seven – thumb, index and middle finger extended
Eight – thumb, index, middle and ring finger extended
Nine – all five fingers extended
Ten – all five fingertips together and pointing up
Other gestures, expressions and body language
Alplai applaud by slapping the palm against the thigh, sometimes using both hands when exuberant.
Bent arm raised, forearm horizontal, hand moving in circular motion at wrist.
Alplai express confusion by tilting the head to one side.
Hand to shoulder
Placing a hand on another person’s shoulder is done to acknowledge good news in a celebratory/congratulatory manner – the Alplai equivalent of a high-five or fist-bump.
Alplai couples “bill” by gently tapping the sides of their beaks together.
Alplai point with the third and fourth finger; it is also not considered rude to point at someone to gain their attention.
Signifying agreement or disagreement
To signify agreement, Alplai jerk the head upwards twice; to signify disagreement, the head is jerked downward twice.
“Smiling” and “frowning”
Alplai express pleasure by lifting the head with the beak open; displeasure is expressed by lowering the head with eyes fixed on the other person.
Bent arm raised, forearm horizontal, hand and fingers flat and stiff.
Just as humans may hum or mumble when lost in thought, Alplai make a soft dental clicking sound, called tetet; it is often so soft that it can barely be heard.
Alplai “sigh” using a high-pitched trilling sound.