Home • Created 2022/5/5 • Updated 2023/9/9 • Read Time 8min • Discord
Semiotics is the study of signs, symbols, codes, and the structural relations between
semantic entities. Traditional semiotic studies looked at things like why we associate
owls with wisdom or how body language communicates emotions whereas contemporary
semiotics looks more at linguistic and symbolic fitness to try to make language more
efficient or intuitive.
I believe natural languages are already perfectly efficient. For example, if you take
the most complex thing you can think of and assign the full description of that thing
as a definition to a term, then you have a single word that describes the most complex
thing in the world. This is a compression algorithm with no upper bounds, making
natural language highly efficient in a way that obviates information bottlenecks.
Many people believe language is a director or limiter of thought, but semiotics often
showcases that a shift in representation of objects by some convention is what becomes
the common administrator of thoughts instead. Because of this, semiotics is also a
focus in epistemological studies related to hermeneutics (study of interpretation).
It seems obvious to me that instead of working on efficiency, better time is spent on
making communication more intuitive. My KIoCSL project from 2021/4/14 is an
example of an attempt at this where I tried to combine a featural numeric system with
extensible formatting to allow for more intuitive math. But the project failed.
I've worked on other writings systems and fonts as further studies into semiotics.
Towards A Perfect Symbolic Framework
The projects shown in the introduction section have all been abandoned, as well as the
Snarl, SnorkOn the same page as Snarl., and Chromatophore projects. Each of those projects had unique properties
and I have learned interesting things from them, but they also lacked important
features that make writing useful, so I have abandonded work on all those projects in
pursuit of a perfect writing system.
The criteria for the most useful and streamlined writing system seems to be something
like the following:
1 - Captures every possible human-pronounceable phone/phoneme (akin to the IPA).
2 - Featural so as to make understanding the meaning of the symbols intuitive.
3 - Not difficult to write by hand.
4 - Formatless, or at least the read-direction can be fully dynamically oriented.
5 - Diacritic capacity for things like tonal phonetics or musical notation.
6 - No inherent color so the symbols can be flatly inscribed with no information loss.
7 - Both human and machine readable with no transposition required.
The system I made to test this is an 8x8 pixel area, 64 bits total, a standard chunk
size in computing, that allows for both human and machine-readable symbols that mimic
the shapes the mouth makes when pronouncing them. This makes the system featural and
covers 1, 2, and 7 in the above list. The formatting I use is borrowed from Snork so
that the read-direction is dynamically oriented, covering 4 in the list. 5 fits in the
side column on the left of the symbols. 6 is covered by the fact that a single color
is used for all the pixels/writing, a lesson I learned from the Chromatophore project.
I am not certain if this counts as an alphabet, logography, or something else.
The system can definitely be improved since criteria 3 is not satisfied. Writing every
single sound used in a word is slow, and you must draw an entire mouth for each of
those sounds. Despite this, it solves many other problems with writing systems, so I
see something like this working as a universal textual bridge as it is a featural
version of the IPA.
Some inspiration for conlang studies - Lojban, Ithkuil, Interlingua, Ygyde, and as an
interesting hobbyist project, Hallowspeak (+). Purely aesthetic conlangs can have very
interesting results too, like canonical Vulcan (+).
Examples of good generative/permutative design can be found in Atticus Bones' work,
Mnunu Nimune's work, and .we_interfvce's book.
The difficulties of trying to create symbolic systems that work in all use-cases while
remaining highly efficient become apparent in projects like Michiel de Boer's work on
segmented displays. An example of bad symbolics is Ron Cobb's Semiotic Standard for
spacecraft since it doesn't use clear silhouetting, is hard to determine if borders
are solid or dotted from a distance, and fails to work for other species that perceive
colors differently than humans. An example of good symbolics would be Eve Online's
icons, which have none of the prior problems.