Universal Pictorial Language



Dedicated to the Development of a Universal Pictorial Language.

Copyright © February, 2010, Bill Pfeil


It would be a significant advancement in communication if a language could be developed which would be basic to all languages.

This Universal Pictorial Language would need to: 1. convey concepts of thought, and 2. describe physical phenomena.

Word languages which have naturally evolved only approximate concepts and physical phenomena. A language of symbols for concepts of thought, and pictures duplicating physical phenomenon, could be more accurate and be universally understood.

As a starting point, what is initially proposed is a computerized language with two tiers, similar to musical notation.

The lower tier is composed of symbols representing concepts of thought.

The upper tier could be composed of virtual depictions of physical phenonema - - pictures of the objects and events in the physical world.

Communicating both concepts and phenomena would be read by the association of the lower tier symbols and the upper tier pictures.

It would be relatively easy to develop the upper tier showing a physical representation of physical phenomena. Simply show the pictures.

The more difficult task of developing this Universal Pictorial Language is assigning symbols to represent concepts of thought.

The problems of symbolizing concepts are:

1. Identifying the fundamental concepts of thought. Certainly the number is finite. By analogy, all colors of the spectrum are combinations of 3 basic colors. All thought might be combinations of a finite number of fundamental concepts.

How many fundamental concepts of thought are there? 100? 500? This would be the first subject of study. It is astounding that linguists and philosophers have not discovered this already.

2. Assigning symbols to these fundamental concepts of thought. There should be logic is assigning the symbols, and expressible on a computer.

The symbols could be of strokes, shapes, positions, sizes, intensities, directions and other variables or their combination to represent these fundamental concepts of thought.

For instance, the concept of spatial relation could be represented by corresponding spatial symbols.

Concepts of movement or desire could have some direction symbolization.

The type of feeling or attitude could be represented by assigned color.

The concept of intensity could be depicted by the intensity of the symbol or color.

The concept of quantity in both the upper tier and the lower tier could be shown in mathematical terms.

The concept of quality would be a form of intensity.

We might get some suggestions from studying the character strokes of some languages like Chinese which has made an attempt to represent a concept.

If more 'space' for symbols is needed, additional dimensions could be a computer function:

1. adding depth, a third dimension, and
2. showing change in the third dimension, and
3. showing a rate-of-change

The upper tier of our Pictorial Language might be further developed to provide tactile, sound, taste or other sensory or emotive input. Cybernetics is already developed enough for such a sensory/computer interface.

There is currently a most simplistic yet inadequate symbolic language. The Widgit Literacy Symbols has a ‘symbolary’ of 12,000 main concepts used in communication. For the concept of ‘same,’ they use 2 same geometric forms. For ‘different,’ 2 non-similar geometric forms. For ‘is’ and ‘be,’ they use an equal sign. ‘And’ is a plus sign. ‘Can’ is an upward caret. ‘When’ and 'time sequence is spacial sequence. Common signs are used for activities. However these are primitive attempts at a language of symbols.

As this project proceeds, we must develop symbols sophisticated enough to communicate every meaningful thought.

A Universal Pictorial Language would provide more accurate communication than word language. And give greater expressions and interpretations.

And being basic to all languages, it would facilitate translations between word languages.

A Universal Pictorial Language would be very expressive through the use of basic concepts rather than limited words. However a vocal component could be developed also.

These are probably not new ideas. Maybe there is a better model than an upper tier for physical events and a lower tier for concepts. Perhaps a seed could be planted with those with linguistic or philosphic skills to develop a Universal Pictorial Language.

Aristotle said that thought was not possible without using mental symbols. Replication of these symbols digitally is our task.

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