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Multicultural transposition: From alphabets to pictographs, towards semantographic communication

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In today’s world, there are more than 5000 languages and dialects in use, of which only 100 may be considered of major importance. As Dreyfuss (1972) states, inter-communication amongst them has proved not just difficult but impossible. Because a universal language would be the solution to this problem, over 800 attempts have in fact been made in the last 1000 years to develop an official second language that in time could be adopted by all major countries. Some of the most recognized examples are Esperanto, Interlingua, Ido and Volapuk. However, all of them combine elements of existing languages and rely on the Roman alphabet, which reduces their applicability to certain regions of the world. The aim of this project is to explore the world of pictographic communication and develop an effective system for conveying information/knowledge on a universal scale. This would potentially bridge linguistic and cultural gaps, transcending boundaries, and thereby creating a broader vision of multiculturalism. In this sense, we find useful the notion of ‘semantography’, from the Greek word semanticos, significant meaning, and graphin, to write. The term was coined by Charles K. Bliss in 1947 to define his development of a non-alphabetical symbol writing system, based on the principles of ideographic writing and chemical symbolism. Semantography was the name of Charles K. Bliss’ proposed book for the Blissymbolic communication system.
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Keywords: culture studies; linguistics; multicultural communication; pictographs; semantics; visual communication; writing systems

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Plymouth

Publication date: May 17, 2012

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