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Graphical language

Graphical language is an emergent concept. Language in any form, whether spoken, written (that is, the counterpart of a spoken language), or graphically manifested, is a system of communication and reasoning using representation, metaphor, logical grammar and symbolic expression. This is the sine qua non of civilization.

Language was based on the meanings that humans attach to and derive from the sounds that they make with their voices. It was the ease with which humans make sounds and attach significance to them which characterized the process of creating and using the various spoken languages.

At various points in history, new types of civilizations became possible, then real, with the advent of written languages. Written languages are counterparts (isomorphic, in the mathematical sense) to spoken languages and although the concept of written language is several thousand years old the idea that each person in a civilization could make use of written language is a very recent idea, not even as old as the printing press, just before the 16th century CE.

Since the latter part of the 20th century CE, in the computer and Internet era, abilities to easily create new counterparts to spoken and written languages in the form of graphical objects on displays have arisen. To these are attached significance and meaning, and it is possible to instantaneously share such graphical expressions with others in every corner of the globe. They can be assembled in complex ways according to rules that are spontaneously developing. The process of creating and communicating instantly via graphical language parallels the manner in which spoken languages were created by people in ages past who used their abilities to make sounds to build systems of communication based on the meaning and significance that could be associated with sounds.

Graphical languages are counterparts both to spoken languages and to the human thought process. In the former case they have disadvantages and benefits compared to spoken or written languages. A graphical language which is devised as a counterpart to a spoken or written language is not constrained by the limitations of spoken languages. It extends the usefulness of the spoken language in the same way the written extension of the spoken language does. Such graphical languages are designed for communicating with others through a graphical display, complementing and extending spoken languages.

Other types of graphical languages allow people to interact with graphical representations on graphical displays. This allows either individuals or groups of people to act collaboratively and, for instance, perform complex graphical modeling in many endeavors, including chemistry, biochemistry, finance, avionics, engineering, manufacturing, mining and logistics.

Web site development is one example of the development and use of the web browser as a graphical language. To the extent that someone who does not speak Chinese but who can make use of their ability to manipulate and make use of a Chinese web site, that person is demonstrating the ability to supersede the limitations of spoken and written language and communicate by use of a graphical language.

Other primates, including gorillas and chimpanzees, have learned to communicate with humans using one of the first graphical languages, Sign language. This research goes back some fifteen to twenty years.

A few of the current examples of graphical languages are [1] a graphical query language for XML documents and Molecular interaction maps [2] which uses a graphical language to depict complex biological processes.

There are several graphical languages designed for specific applications. These applications come in the form of user gaming interfaces, vehicle navigation systems, point of sales, automation of computer-based machines or systems and appliances. Anything that is performed, monitored or controlled through a display which does not involve typing text, typically involves the use of a graphical language, even if this graphical language is limited in its design and or its usefulness.


  1. ^ XML-GL
  2. ^ (MIMs)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Graphical_language". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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