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An Alphagraphic Language

From:Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 5:43
An Alphagraphic Language

When we read we don't scan the words letter by letter, but take in the whole shape
of the word at a glance. With an unfamiliar word that we are seeing for the
first time, the phonetic values of the letters are important, but as we become
more familiar with the word the sounds of the individual letters becomes less
important, and finally they become completely irrelevant because we recognize
the whole word on sight by its shape.

One of the reasons that text written in all caps is harder to read is that caps
lack the distinctive pattern of ascenders and descenders that helps define the
shape of the word.
Since the sounds of the letters are only of value when a person is first learning to
read, it seems like an alphabet could be designed to make reading faster and
easier for the experienced reader, even if it meant requiring a bit more time
to learn to read it.

What I propose is an alphabet of letters designed not to represent sounds, but
designed to be as visually distinctive as possible, and designed to fit
together side by side on a line so as to make graphical word forms that are as
easy as possible to distinguish from one another. The letters that make up a
word are neither phonetic nor ideographic. They are abstract squiggles that fit
together to form longer abstract squiggles. These abstract squiggles are
assigned arbitrarily to words, just like we assign the 'f' sound to 'gh' in
"enough" and think nothing of it.

Just because two words sound similar doesn't mean they would be "spelled" in a
similar manner. Imagine using the Roman alphabet and spelling "book" qIy and
spelling "hook" JuuI, not because they sound like those letter combinations,
but because they are easily distinguished at a glance by their shape.

Of course the language I have in mind would not use the Roman alphabet, but would
use a new alphabet sepcifically designed so that there would be NO sound
associated with any of the letters of that alphabet. The would not really even
be letters, just shapes, graphical elements used to "write" longer meaningful
shapes that would stand for words.
Unlike a pure ideographic or pictographic language, this language would use only 25
or 30 graphical symbols. But even though those symbols are strung together like
letters, it wouldn't really be alphabetic either. I call it an alphagraphic
language. Or art least that's what I WILL call it after I've designed it.

Any thoughts?



Nik Taylor <yonjuuni@...>
John Cowan <cowan@...>