THURSDAY, DEC 31, 2015
Eric Lee, A-SOCIATED PRESS
TOPICS: DIAGRAMMATIC LANGUAGE, FROM THE WIRES, LITERACY, UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
TUCSON (A-P) — Over 60 spoken languages have been devised to overcome the Babel of the 6,500+ languages currently spoken. None are that much better than the one(s) you speak. The one language that is that much better is ideographic by intent. Visual picto-ideographs are composed of elemental symbols instead of sounds. A written ideographic language can be learned by any speaker of any natural language more easily than learning one foreign language as only an ability to read it is required, not speak or write it. Expecting everyone to learn the one true most perfectly constructed alternative spoken language (e.g. Esparanto or one of the 60 odd other claimants overselling their system) hasn't worked and, reality check, isn't going to happen and shouldn't. For global numeracy we have '1234+*-' symbols that can be spoken any which way anyone cares to as the symbols of math represent concepts and not sounds. For global literacy, there is Bliss (Semantography).
An ideographic written language can be taught pictographically, starting with pictures to show what the symbols mean and thus is learnable by any autodidact anywhere at anytime who has a copy of Book00, the Rosetta Book. Anyone capable of self-learning will be able to learn the universal language in short order and have access to all information written in that language. The language? It is here and now. Semantography (Bliss) already exists. The Rosetta Book needs to be written.
Waiting for bureaucratic entities to decide to teach Semantography is one option, but has been tried. Developing the Rosetta Book and freely distributing it is another. Fundamental change occurs at the individual level by individuals making enlightened choices. When there are enough early adapters, the tipping point comes. The Rosetta Book is needed to allow autodidacts, regardless of their accident of birth and native language, to learn Semantography, the universal language to unite humanity and clarify our memetic mind.
Currently a form of the Rosetta Book exists in English. It was written by Charles K. Bliss in 1949 and expanded upon in 1965. It is a rare book, copies sell for $980 to $1300, but a True Friend of Bliss photocopied the book, all 882 pages, and those are available as a bunch of JPG files. Each page is either crooked, has artifacts such as dark areas, or both. The Friends of Bliss have tried to clean up the mess and convert the files into an ebook that all who can read English can study. A pictographic Rosetta Book00 would not have this limitation.
The Friends of Bliss seek to realize his vision of one language for one world. Their goals:
1. Make his book, Semantography, available to all as a free ebook. Students of Bliss' system are likely to become interested in spreading the language and becoming Friends of Bliss. The first step has been achieved. Download Semantography.pdf. A friend of Bliss has OCRed the PDF into a searchable PDF: http://www.symbolnet.org/bliss/semantography50_ocr_take3.pdf
2a. The ebook form was compiled by cleaning up the photocopies enough to make the pages more or less readable 'enough'. The next step is to redo each page more carefully. We have detailed instructions for doing so, and those willing and able to help will be paid $1 per page, should our Kickstarter funding succeed, a fraction of the minimum wage (some pages can take an hour or more), hence our campaign is for $882 so the editors can treat themselves to a latte or beer for a job well done. Contributors, whether of money or time, will be noted in a postscript to the ebook so posterity will know who to thank. We need help from those willing to take the time to process each page so they contain no distracting imperfections. The ebook images also need to be clean to compress to a smaller size. The book was Bliss' lifework and restoring a few pages will merely be a day's work.
2b. Retyping all the English text and saving the graphics used as separate files would allow Semantography to be searchable and more compressed. The book could be offered as web pages allowing for interactive discussion on each.
2c. Have copies printed, at least a Reader's Digest version, and made available, courtesy of the Friends of Bliss (Bliss is short for Semantography).
3. The next project will be to develop a way to type the ideographic language. This will be done by using ASCII characters for keyboard entry to allow fast typing input to translate information into Semantography. The symbols that make up each ideograph will be assigned a typable character and the combination will be speakable so those who know Semantography can speak it and understand those who speak it. Such speech will not flow as well as natural language, is not intended to replace natural language for social purposes, but it will be possible to speak meaningfully and type the speakable form quickly. The speakable form will be a simplified X-SAMPA which is a typable form of IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). All spoken languages can be written in typable X-SAMPA.
4. Software will then be developed to display the ideographs above the typed text as it is typed. It will also be possible to construct new ideographs as needed. New ideographs will be composed of known symbols and for the most part "will speak for themselves." Those who can only read the language will understand it by looking at it and can figure out new ideographs readily. The speakable form assigned to new ideographs will not be arbitrary, but will not be readily understood by just hearing it. Only writers will need to learn the speakable forms as readers will not, and writers will want to for fast input. This makes reading Semantography easy to learn and 'good enough' for many. The main reason to use an ideographic universal language instead of a spoken language represented merely by a string of characters that indicate how a word is spoken with little clue as to what the word means is to convey the meaning behind the words. Learning to sight-read an ideographic written language is vastly easier than learning to speak and write a foreign language (even one's mother-tongue), or even one constructed to be regular in form and so easier to learn than English, Chinese, or Arabic.
5. Rosetta Book will need to be composed. Pictures will be simplified into drawings and drawn images to elemental symbols which will be pictographic where possible to abstract as needed. Simple stories can be told using drawings. A set of images, such as of domestic canines, could convey a concept. The concept of "dog" could be represented as an ideograph of a four-legged animal with a dog-like tail that lives with and is protected by humans as distinct from "wild" which is an unprotected canine. Basic concepts are constructed first, assigned symbols, then the symbols used to construct more complex concepts. An ideograph for "fox" could be "small+wild+canine" and "coyote" could be "wild+singing+canine" and so on.
6. Book01 through Book10 will develop the language of concepts further, continuing the process begun in Rosetta Book of using such concepts as young children can grasp, and begin to include information worth preserving as common knowledge. The global wealth of information could be boiled down to a dozen or so books. The series of books will both follow and guide the development of the concept-forming mind enabling minds to think increasingly complex thoughts clearly and well. Children would thereby be taught how to think and not what to think. The same books would do the same for adults teaching themselves the language. The Rosetta Book, Book01 and so on would be subject to ongoing rewriting by educators guided by evidence, insight, and reason. The concepts of "less, more, same" would leed to questions of how much more or less and to counting, a leed-in to mathematics. Concepts of "human, plant, animal, energy, planet" would leed-in to ecolacy, to advanced evidence-based concepts such as that plants and animals do not exist only to profit or to serve humans. The "semanto" in Semantography is about "meaning" and so the language will be favored by those with an interest in evidence-based ways of knowing and not favored by ideologues given their fondness for weasel words. Natural language is favored by demagogues, rabblerousers, pontificaters, tyrants, and would-be prophets. Natural language is also favored by poets and lovers. The choice is not "either/or" but "and/both."
7. Book11 to Book99, the Encyclopedia of Earth written in Semantography, will cover areas of special interest. Wikipedia could be translated into Semantography to be edited by techno-scholars everywhere. The Encyclopedia could be printed on sheets of aluminum, pounded into the metal by a dot matrix printer, and copies placed at natural and archaeological sites likely to attract interest as well as distributed to communities. Perhaps a few copies could be put in orbit or on the moon. The real wealth of nations is what scientists and scholars have learned in the past 7,000 years to advance our collective grasp of reality. The cost of preserving it will be a tiny fraction of the time, effort and energy used to acquire it. If lost, there will be no vast tove of fossil fuel to use to reacquire the knowledge that is the fruit of our civilization's 300 year experiment in exponential competitive growth.
8. By 2049, the centennial of the publishing of Bliss, to have copies of the Rosetta Book in all motel rooms and libraries on the planet.
9. Love and understand our life-support system and the star stuff of which it is made.
The Indus Valley civilization collapsed and no one who could read the Harappa script survived. The Elam civilization developed Elamite and no literate Elamite passed on their knowledge or ability to read. The Minoans on Crete developed writing and no one survived the passing of their civilization who could read it. The Mayans developed writing but no one who could read it survived, though a few books survived burning by the Conquistadors that were deciphered. The people who settled Easter Island developed the Rongorongo script, but no one among the remnant surviving population could read it. To preserve the information of the current empire, will data stored in an Arctic vault in Norway be readable by anyone in a thousand years? Don't count on it. A Plan B should focus on human-readable information stored on long-lasting media that a human with a hand and ability to speak a natural language that no one to would understand could, with help of a Rosetta book, be able to read.
One logical (semanto) graphic language unifies 6,500+ illogical Babel languages and teaches humans how to think. Language learning could begin early. "Mommy," giver of milk and care, is not the "baby." "Daddy" who also cares is not the "Mommy." "Sister" and "Dog" share the home. Together we are "family." Visual symbols could be learned before spoken language. Should children learn one of thousands of arbitrary symbol sets (printed words) that at best mirror spoken sounds? Or perhaps just a few hundred basic symbols as abstract pictures that reflects elemental concepts that can be used to build more advanced concepts all children in the world learn? Don't wait for schools to teach the children. Learn, then teach. Individuals can learn and teach. After the tipping point, schools will teach Bliss, but not before.