Print

Print


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>.