The other day I was discussing telepathy with a friend. Commonly in science-fiction telepathy is a convenient solution to any language barrier. Humans, at least, tend to think in language. If telepathic communication is possible it may need to be in the form of images and sensations. There may be problems with differing sensory apparatus and sensitivities. An object may look very different if your visual range extends into the mid-infrared. Many creatures have a world-view that is more reliant on their olfactory senses. Cultural context will also be a problem. A human might transmit an image of a middle-aged woman with a feeling of warmth. This might be translated as “spouse” but could have been intended to mean “mother”, the receiver being unable to appreciate the context of age. One species’ “warm” might be considered uncomfortably hot by another, and taken to mean “danger”.
Thinking about visual communication took me back to Blissymbolics. When I wrote about Awgzing, I suggested that some Blissymbols might be used for written communication such as signposts. In fact, the symbol for Awgzing was derived from Bliss.
According to various websites there are around 5,000 Bliss-words, 900 of which are “Bliss characters”: single symbols with a meaning. Some of these characters are combinations of two or more other other characters. In his original book Bliss suggests 100 basic symbol elements that can be combined.
Blissymbolics is used in the education of people with communication difficulties. Some of the simpler symbols deserve wider usage. The symbol for “exit” is a doorway-shaped arch with an arrow coming out from it. The symbol for gas is a small circle with an upward arrow, representing a rising bubble. See here for a searchable database of symbols
Blissymbolics suggests a number of strategies that may be applied to Diinlang.
Firstly, it is highly modular, so may help design a conlang where the majority of words are formed from compounds of simpler words. Bliss’ first 100 concepts could each be assigned a single syllable phoneme.
Addition of a modifier symbol to another symbol changed the symbol to a “chemical thing”, “action” or “human evaluation”, the equivalent of substantives, verbs and modifiers. This expanded with other symbols that indicate tense, aspect and voice of a verb. We see something like this in Diinlang. A small number of determiners make a word a noun, use of auxiliary verbs designates certain verb forms. Certain endings distinguish some modifiers, but there is probably room for improvement.
The original book by Bliss contains many interesting ideas. The addition symbol could mean “and” but also served as “also” and “too”. A symbol for “part” combines with other symbols for related meanings. With the symbol for fire, it has the meaning “flame” and with water it means “drop”
Blissymbols are inspiring some new trains of thought, so expect to see some of their influence in future posts.