Re: Non-linear / full-2d writing systems?
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, May 10, 2005, 5:51|
On Monday, May 9, 2005, at 06:01 , H. S. Teoh wrote:
> On Sat, May 07, 2005 at 06:22:22PM +0100, Ray Brown wrote:
>> As Sai & Teoh make some similar points, I'll try a joint reply :)
> Ditto, to prevent clutter.ditto :)
[ALL WRITING IS 2D]
>> H. S. Teoh wrote:
>>> On Fri, May 06, 2005 at 07:25:03PM +0100, Ray Brown wrote:[sni
>> Sure - but arguably this applies to abugidas, to the Korean writing
>> Egyptian hieroglyphics to some extent and to Mayan hieroglyphics to a
>> greater extent. What I guess I was trying to get at is: "What are the two
> I would still consider Korean as linear, because the second extension
> is finite.
I agree it is linear - as was ancient Egyptian and, I presume, Mayan.
> The other extension is (potentially) infinite, which is... [snip]....
> in a linear fashion. Therefore, the writing system is essentially
Yes, I agree they are all essentially linear. AFAIK all natlang writing
systems are essentially linear, as I have written elsewhere.
> The first step towards getting away from this inherent linearity is to
> make the structure branching as opposed to linear: i.e., the top-level
> units (which may be composed of multiple "atoms" of whatever
> dimensionality) can be strung together not only along a line, but they
> can branch, and each branch can have a (potentially) unlimited
Yes, but when a tree structure is traversed it is read off linearly.
> A further step would be to allow not only branching, but also
> arbitrary interconnections between units, like a graph (in the sense
> of nodes and edges).
Right - that makes more sense.
> This does not mean literally drawing circles
> representing nodes and lines representing edges;
Of course not :)
> it means that the
> units of the writing system are such that they can be composed with
> each other in such a way that you can have complex inter-relationships
> between them. As a contrived example, you may have a crescent-shaped
> symbol around which other symbols may be juxtaposed, and each
> juxtaposition carries a particular meaning.
> I'm not sure how close this is to Sai's idea of a "fully" 2D writing
> system, but I'd say any writing system that purports to be 2D must
> have at least this level of expressivity before it can be considered
> as such.
I would imagine Sai is thinking in terms of something with at least that
level of expressivity; but my understanding is that what he wants
expressed is something more akin to "pure thought" and not related to any
spoken (or once spoken or could be spoken) language, whether a natlang or
>> H.S.Teoh wrote:
>>> If you meant writing in 3D characters, that'd be right up the alley of
>>> a conlang spoken by 4D beings. :-)
>> But why couldn't 3d beings use 3rd characters? But I thought Sai was
>> envisioning something that was not just made up of characters.
> Because even though we are 3D beings, we are more familiar with 2D
> surfaces (which may be curved in 3D, but are nevertheless still only
> 2D in topology).
>> Elsewhere H.S.Teoh wrote:
>>> How about a description of carvings on a long totem pole?
>> Yes, and a totem pole, whether short or long, is a 3d object :)
>> As Sai suggested above, it could be _sculptural_ which is what a totem
>> pole is.[snip]
> But see, our idea of 3D is still only based on the *surfaces* of 3D
True - a totem pole is really a 2d surface curved round a cylinder. I
think, however, we do have the technology to create 3d writing.
> A real 3D writing would take advantage of the additional
> dimension to represent different glyphs.
Absolutely - But (as I think Sai realized) I was being a bit "tongue in
cheek" with the 3d suggestion. The 2d idea is complex enough for starters
- so let's not pursue the 3d idea (we can leave that to conlangers of the
22nd century :)
On Sat, May 07, 2005 at 06:15:18PM -0000, Joseph Bridwell wrote:
>> I don't know about the others, but I'm a 4D being - I have height,
>> with, depth and I exist in time.
> Well, that depends on how you define 4D. :-)Quite so!
> I am speaking not of 4D
> as in 3 dimensions of space plus 1 dimension of time,
I understood that in terms of modern physics the above notion doesn't make
sense anyway. Isn't time dependent upon space?
> but rather *4*
> dimensions of *space*. If you like, consider it as 5D (4 spatial
> dimensions + 1 temporal dimension).
I thought the 4th dimension of Einstein and others was the space-time
continuum. But, as I said above, perhaps this part of thread can be put on
hold for a century or so :)
>> Yes, I read your "writing on the wall" description and was going to reply
>> to it. This is all very well, but two points occur to me:
>> 1. Having something that takes up so much space it needs a whole wall is
>> bit inconvenient. We need something that is going to fit onto a
>> size sheet of paper or VDU (with sensible resolution) IMO.
> It doesn't have to be on a wall. I used the wall example just to prove
> that it is indeed non-linear; it can be projected on a wall without
> such devices as line-wrapping, which would betray its actual
But even projecting onto a wall is not the most convenient of reading. I
still think a usable form of writing has got to be in 'manageable chunks'
and to me the largest manageable chunk would be a page at a time.
>> 2. How would you deal with something like J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the
>> Rings"? Six walls? In what case the walls would be read linearly.
> Whether they are read linearly or not, to me, is beside the point. A
> human reader, bound by time and limited mental capacity, would
> necessarily process the information linearly in one way or another.
Quite - this is the point I have been trying to make all along - *a human
reader ... would necessarily process the information linearly in one way
or another*. At some point or other linearity kicks in.
> Therefore, what decides whether the writing is 2D or not is whether it
> is confined to a fixed *order*.
I agree entirely.
> To answer your question, I'd say that the writing system must be such
> that you can excise one sub-diagram from the whole and put it on its
> own page, and so forth; but the resulting set of pages would have no
> fixed order in which you must read them. They would be related to each
> other by complex interrelationships. Most likely, one would use
> "anchor symbols" (or symbols/sub-diagrams that recur on two separate
> pages) to reference each other and establish an interrelationship.
> What order you read the pages in would be irrelevant; if you read
> through all the pages, presumably you would be able to piece them all
> together in your mind into the wall-sized writing.
Yes - but how does that tie up with your statement above "A human reader,
bound by time and limited mental capacity, would necessarily process the
information linearly in one way or another."?
> I think the crux of the issue is linearity. Complexity does not
> necessarily indicate non-linearity;
Obviously not - Japanese writing makes quite a good job of linear
> what defines non-linearity is the
> lack of a fixed forwards/backwards direction in the text, and the lack
> of a unique beginning and a unique ending. What makes Pinuyo
> non-linear, at least within a single "sentence", is that you can read
> the elements in any order and it conveys the same thought.
Now, I could do that relatively easily with single "sentences". Do I take
it that while Pinuyo is non-linear at the intra-sentence level, it is
linear at the inter-sentence level?
(I use sentence in a loose sense here)
> There is
> more than one way you can read it, and it doesn't have to be
> top-to-bottom, left-to-right. There is no unique starting/ending
> element. You could very well start in the middle and scan
> circumferentially, or start at an arbitrary corner and proceed
> radially, etc..
Yes - as I said, I have no problem with this at the intra-sentence level.
It is the notion that something like a whole book could be thus written. I
do find it very difficult to see how the _sense/ meaning_ of Charles
Darwin's "The Origin of species" or Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" could be
written so there is more than one way you could read it and there is no
starting or ending element.
Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight,
which is not so much a twilight of the gods
as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]