Alphabets and Characters

Alphabets and Characters

Anna Ursyn (University of Northern Colorado, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5753-2.ch007
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Abstract

This chapter examines visual-verbal connections that can be perceived in individual letters. Cultural patterns that build our visual literacy include visual writings in many modes and styles, visible stories, and visual rhetoric. The text examines old ways of communication attained by developing writing systems and discusses kinds of characters making different alphabets. Further text is about human characters, traits of their personalities, and then examining the visual power of characters that constitute the modern English alphabet by developing alphabet-based projects linking letters with human characters and human emotions.
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Alphabets

Old and Contemporary Ways of Writing

It is almost impossible to estimate how many languages with written characters exist in the world now; however, it is well known that extinction of many languages occurs every day. Proto-writing conveyed limited information through graphic or mnemonic, supporting memory symbols rather than through writing systems in specific languages. Old ways of visual communication involved numbers and their various representations, clay tablets, hieroglyphs, and many more forms. Archeologists found objects with such markings and dated them as belonging to Neolithic era in China and Europe (as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sumerian proto-cuneiforms, and Cretan scripts), Bronze Age both Indian and European, and Nigerian (African) scripts from the Iron Age. Old Babylonian (1900 to 1500 B.C.) and Proto-Sumerian tablets contained number notations as cuneiform scripts (Friberg, 1997). A clay tablet from before 3,500 years that was found in an ancient city near today Baghdad contains an agricultural instruction manual (Kramer, 1997).

The quipu, a system of knotted cords, is a numerical recording system that was used in the Inca Empire in the Andean region in the 15th and 16th centuries. Marcia and Robert Ascher (1980, 1997) explored this system and found that quipus provide mostly numeric information. Numbers can be read, as each cluster of knots is a digit. Gary Urton, a specialist in Andean archaeology posed that combination of fiber types, dye colors, and intricate knotting contains a seven-bit binary code capable of conveying more than 1,500 separate units of information.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sign: Tells about a fact, an idea, or information; it is a distinct thing that signifies another thing. Natural signs signify events caused by nature, while conventional signs may signal art, social interactions, fashion, food, interaction with technology, machines, and practically everything else.

Pictograph: A symbolic image representing a word or a sentence wide used in ancient cultures such as in Egypt, Mesopotamia, or Indian pictographs and petroglyphs. Also, a pictorial representation (an icon, a symbol, or a picture) presented on a computer screen, or a chart, showing the value of the data or comparing the sets of the data; pictographs are used to replace or enhance graphs that present the data as lines, curves, or bars.

Pattern: Means the regular order existing in nature and in a manmade design. We can see patterns everywhere in nature, mathematics, art, architecture, and design. In nature patterns can be seen as symmetries (e.g., snowflakes) and/or structures having fractal dimension such as spirals, meanders, or surface waves. In computer science, design patterns serve in creating computer programs. In the arts, pattern is an artistic or decorative design made of recurring lines or any repeated elements. A pattern makes a basis of ornaments, which are specific for different cultures. Owen Jones (1856) AU8: The in-text citation "Owen Jones (1856)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. made a huge collection of ornaments typical for different countries. He wrote an amazing monographic book entitled “The Grammar of Ornament.”

Symbol: Symbols no resemble things they represent but refer to something by convention. We must learn the relationship between symbols and what they represent, such as letters, numbers, words, codes, traffic lights, and national flags. A symbol represents an abstract concept, not just a thing, and is comparable to an abstract word. Highly abstracted drawings that show no realistic graphic representation become symbols. Symbols are omnipresent in our life. Examples may include: an electric diagram, which uses abstract symbols for a light bulb, wire, connector, resistor, and switch; an apple for a teacher or a bitten apple for a Macintosh computer; a map – typical abstract graphic device; a ‘slippery when wet’ sign. Signs, icons, and symbols are collectively called signage. Icons and symbols help compress information in a visual way. Designers choose signs, symbols, and icons that are powerful and effective; for example, a designer may look for an icon showing the essence of the meaning related to scissors and common features characteristic for this product. Effective design of a complicated product may help memorize and learn how to use the product.

Icon, Iconic Object, or Image: An icon represents a thing or refers to something by resembling or imitating it; thus, a picture, a photograph, a mathematical expression, or an old-style telephone may be regarded as an iconic object. Thus, an iconic object has some qualities common with things it represents, by looking, sounding, feeling, tasting, or smelling alike.

Signs, Symbols, and Icons: Are collectively called signage. Signs take conventional shapes or forms to tell about facts, ideas, or information. Icons and symbols help compress information in a visual way. An icon represents a thing or refers to something by resembling or imitating it; thus a picture, a photograph, a mathematical expression, or an old-style telephone may be regarded as an iconic object. Thus, an iconic object has some qualities common with things it represents, by looking, sounding, feeling, tasting, or smelling alike. Designers choose signs, symbols, and icons that are powerful and effective; for example, a designer may look for an icon showing the scissorness, the essence of the meaning related to scissors: some common features characteristic for this product. Effective design of a complicated product may help memorize and learn how to use this product (for example, 'Where is the switch?' or 'How to open this thing?').

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