On Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 6:34 PM, Michael Everson <[log in to unmask]>wrote: > On 21 Jul 2011, at 16:52, Patrick Dunn wrote: > > >> A heart is "arbitrary"? > > > > Obviously, and on several levels. > > > > First, it looks nothing like a heart (nor should it: historically it's > not a drawing of a hard at all, but perhaps a drawing of buttocks and vulva > or inverted testicles). We have assigned it the value "heart" quite > arbitrarily. > > Yes, but it has been used for that since the 15th century, in fairness. > It's not as though Charles Bliss made it up out of whole cloth. > > > Second, the idea that emotions reside in the heart is a culturally bound > and arbitrary association. Other cultures would pick the liver, stomach, or > perhaps no organ at all. > > Well, Bliss does not apologize for being Anglo/Germano/Euro-centric. > Charles Bliss was familiar with Chinese writing but I don't think he > learned much if any Chinese. Bliss may not be "universal" but that does not > mean that its use of icons isn't... iconic or that its evident arbitrariness > isn't parseable given a fairly shallow cultural context. > > > It is simply impossible to assign an iconic symbol to an abstract idea > such as emotion. > > Erm, Bliss users learn to use the symbol and associate it with emotion > pretty well. And a whole swathe of secondary Bliss-words are built using the > heart-shape "feeling" in various contexts. > > > One must either rely on metaphoric extension (as ancient Egyptian does > with the hieroglyph for nfr, "beauty," being a musical > > instrument) > > I learned that this was a heart and trachea, not a musical instrument. > > > or fall back on the purely arbitrary. Blissymbolics tends to fall > somewhere in between. > > It is arbitrary in a universal context given human cultures considered on a > planetary scale. In the context of a European script, it is much less > arbitrary (at least where the heart is concerned). > > > By the way, outside of Blissymbolics, I've never seen a stick figure of a > human being drawn like an inverted T. To be told, "this is a stick figure > of a human being" is to be taught an arbitrary meaning. > > There are several ways of writing people in Bliss. Stick with two legs is a > man, stick with a triangle is a woman, an stick with a flat base is a > person. It's still a basic stick figure and indeed the iconography is not > unmotivated. The two legs are the same as the Action character, the triangle > the same as the Creation character. The flat base is neutral. Again, the > users of Bliss take to this without too much trouble. It appears to be > intuitive enough. > > Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/ > Users of language take to arbitrary symbols all the time. Symbols do not have to be iconic to be meaningful; in fact, precious few of them are. Perhaps none of them, in an absolute sense. -- Second Person, a chapbook of poetry by Patrick Dunn, is now available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press<http://www.finishinglinepress.com/NewReleasesandForthcomingTitles.htm>.