Language and Visual Communication

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  • 7/27/2019 Language and Visual Communication


    Language and visual communication

    Language :Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems ofcommunication, and a language is any specific example of such a system. the scientific study

    of language is called linguistics.

    Estimates of the number of languages in the world vary between 6,000 and 7,000. However,

    any precise estimate depends on a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects.

    Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary

    media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli for example, in graphic writing, braille, or

    whistling. This is because human language is modality-independent. When used as a general

    concept, "language" may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex

    communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of

    utterances that can be produced from those rules. Academic consensus holds that between50% and 90% of languages spoken at the beginning of the twenty-first century will probably

    have become extinct by the year 2100.

    Chapter Outline

    Origins and Development of Human Language

    Characteristics of Human Language

    Acquiring Language

    The Structure of Language

    Language and Culture

    Nonverbal Communication

    Language Change

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    Origin of Human Language:


    Hockett suggested that language evolved in

    two steps

    1. Blending occurred when human ancestors began to produce new calls by combining two

    old ones.2. In the duality of patterning stage, humans acquired the ability to produce

    Arrangements of blended sounds.

    Characteristics of Human Language

    Conventionality - The idea words are only arbitrarily or conventionally connected to the

    things for which they stand.

    Productivity - The idea that humans can combine words and sounds into new meaningful

    utterances they have never before heard

    Displacement - The capacity of human languages to describe things not happening in the


    Acquiring Language

    Humans would speak no language if they were taught none.

    Humans may have a predisposition for learning language patterns or rules.

    The human brain and body are biologically adapted for language.

    The Structure of Language

    The study of the structure and content of specific languages is called descriptive or

    structural linguistics.

    These linguists assume that language can be separated from other aspects of culture

    and studied without any direct reference to the social context in which speaking takes


    The Structure of Language

    The structure of any language consists of four subsystems:

    1. phonology

    2. morphology

    3. syntax

    4. semantics


    The sound system of a language.

    Phone - A sound made by humans and used in any language. International Phonetic Alphabet - A system of writing designed to represent all the

    sounds used in the different languages of the world.


    Phoneme - The smallest significant unit of sound in a language.

    Standard spoken American EnglishThe form of English spoken by most of the

    American middle class.

    Allophones - Two or more different phones that can be used to make the same phoneme in

    a specific language.

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    A system for creating words from sounds.

    Morpheme - Smallest unit of a language that has a meaning.

    Bound morpheme - A unit of meaning that must be associated with another.

    Free morpheme - A unit of meaning that may stand alone as a word.

    Word - The smallest part of a sentence that can be said alone and still retain its meaning.

    Isolating Language

    A language with relatively few morphemes per word and fairly simple rules for combining


    Agglutinating Language

    A language that allows a great number of morphemes per word and has highly regular

    rules for commingling them.

    Synthetic Language

    A language that has words with a great many morphemes and complex highly irregularrules for their combination.


    The part of grammar that has to do with the arrangement of words to form phrases and


    Semantics: The Lexicon

    Semantics is the subsystem of a language that relates form to meaning.

    A lexicon is the total stock of words in a language.


    Subdiscipline of anthropology that focuses on speech performance.

    Sociolinguists attempt to identify, describe, and understand the cultural patterning of

    different speech events within a community.

    They are interested in how speech varies depending on a persons position in a social

    structure or relationship.

    Languages and Dialects

    Grammatical constructions used by the socially dominant group are considered to be

    a language, and deviations from them are often called dialects.

    Pidgin - A language of contact and trade composed of features of the original languages of

    two or more societies.Creole - A first language that is composed of elements of two or more different languages.

    African American Vernacular English (AAVE)

    A form of English spoken by many African Americans particularly those of rural or urban

    working class backgrounds.

    Also known as Ebonics or Black English Vernacular (BEV), AAVE has deep roots in

    the African-American community.

    Code Switching

    The ability of speakers of two (or more ) languages to move seamlessly between


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    Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

    Perceptions and understandings of time, space, and matter are conditioned by the

    structure of a language.

    Nonverbal Communication

    Haptics is the study and analysis of touch.Chronemics is the study of the different ways that cultures understand time and use it to


    Proxemics is the study of the ways in which different cultures use space.

    Kenesics is the study of body movement, facial expressions, and gaze.

    Historical Linguistics

    Focused on discovering the history of languages.

    Vocabularies are constantly changing.

    Sociolinguists are interested in the social factors that affect changes in languages.

    Middle Englishvowel

    Modern Englishvowel

    Middle Englishword

    Rhymed with Became

    I Aj Mis Piece Mice

    U Aw Mus Moose Mouse

    E I Ges Place Geese

    O U Gos Close Goose

    A E Name Comma name

    Comparative LinguisticsDocumenting relationships between languages and grouping them into language


    Core vocabulary - A list of 100 or 200 terms that designate things, actions, and activities,

    likely to be named in all languages.

    Glottochronology - Statistical technique that linguists developed to estimate the date of

    separation of related languages.

    Visual communication :Visual communication is communication through visual aid and is described as the

    conveyance of ideas and information in forms that can be read or looked upon. Visualcommunication in part or whole relies on vision,and is primarily presented or expressed with

    two dimensional images, it includes: signs, typography, drawing, graphic design, illustration,

    Industrial Design, Advertising, Animation colour and electronic resources. It also explores

    the idea that a visual message accompanying text has a greater power to inform, educate, or

    persuade a person or audience.

    The evaluation of a good visual communication design is mainly based on measuring

    comprehension by the audience,[3] not on personal aesthetic and/or artistic preference as

    there are no universally agreed-upon principles of beauty and ugliness. Excluding two

    dimensional images, there are other ways to express information visually - gestures and body

    language, animation (digital or analogue), and film. Visual communication by e-mail, a

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    textual medium, is commonly expressed with ASCII art, emoticons, and embedded digital


    The term 'visual presentation'[4] is used to refer to the actual presentation of information

    through a visible medium such as text or images. Recent research in the field has focused onweb design and graphically-oriented usability. Graphic designers also use methods of visual

    communication in their professional practice. Visual communication on the World Wide Web

    is perhaps the most important form of communication that takes place while users are surfing

    the Internet. When experiencing the web, one uses the eyes as the primary sense, and

    therefore the visual presentation of a website is very important for users to understand the

    message or of the communication taking place.

    The Eye of Horus

    The Eye of Horus is often referred to as the symbol of visual communication.[ citationneeded] It is said to be a representation of an eclipse, as the corona around the pupil is like

    the corona around the sun during a solar eclipse.

    Study of visual communication :

    Students studying visual communication are taught the basic physics of light, anatomy

    and physiology of the eye, cognitive and perception theories, color theories, Gestalt

    psychology, aesthetics, natural reading patterns, design principles, semiotics, persuasion,

    camera/filming actions and image-types, and so forth. Colleges for visual communications

    differ in their approach, but most combine theory and practice in some form.

    Visual communication takes place through pictures, graphs and charts, as well as through

    signs, signals and symbols. It may be used either independently or as an adjunct to the other

    methods of communication.

    Visual Communication and Language :

    1. The emergence of a new field of researchThe twentieth-century expansion of visual media revolutionized Western culture andcommunication practices. Cinema, television and later the Internet imposed new behavioralpatterns, extending the borders of cultural activity. Visual media constituted their own cultural

    context, transforming the traditional relationship between the audience and cultural

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    products.The profound analysis of those changes required the introduction of new scientific methods and tools.Employing new ideas which could provide an appropriate background resulted eventually in thedevelopment of visual communication theory (Hrehov, 2009, s. 27-109). However, redefiningfundamental concepts concerning culture, communication and language turned out to be a complexand a time-consuming process. Visual communication tended to have been marginalized for years, asthe majority of scholars have considered it to have a peripheral importance. At the very beginningeven the collocation of visual and communication occurred to be artificial because the termcommunication seemed to concern only language.

    The question whether the picture can convey a clear message or whether it is able to be anargument has become one of the most discussed issues. The findings of various scholars concerningthis area used to differ significantly, ranging from the assumption that images cannot communicateanything except for feelings (e.g., Gombrich 1960, Goodman 1976 ) to the views indicating thatimages are able to produce an entirely intelligible message (e.g., Messaris, 1994, Kress and vanLeeuven 1996, Noth 1996, Dillon1999). Although the majority of the contemporary theorists rejectthe idea that images are not able to communicate and deliver a message, some scholars point out that apicture should be accompanied by words in order to acquire a particular meaning (e.g., Barthes 1977,

    Fleming, 1996).

    2. Semiotic attempts to characterize visual languageTwo most acknowledged doctrines concerning signs were developed independently by Americanphilosopher Charles Sanders Peirce and Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussur on the turn of the 19thcentury. Peirce and Saussure formulated their theories on divergent premises which resulted in twodifferent sign models - a dyadic (composed of a signifier signifiant- the form and the signifiedsignifie the concept) and triadic one (consists of representamen, interpretant and object) (Chandler2007, 13-42 ).Peirce who was mainly a cognitive philosopher, perceived sings from the wide philosophicalperspective, treating semiotics as an element of his theoretical inquiry. Saussure considered semioticsa social science and believed that his linguistic theory could be extended to all signs systems.

    Therefore, the most essential difference between those sign approa19 , Katedra politolgie ches is theunequal status of language employed in both doctrines. For Peirce language was only an aspect of asign in general, therefore it could not have properties which would be incorporated to all signs andsigns systems, most of which were definitively not specific to the linguistic sign. Saussure regardedlanguage as the most important signs system constituting other forms of signification (Chandler op.,cit.).

    2.1. Saussurian traditionSign theory developed by Saussure had a great impact on a modern social and cultural study.Semiotics revolutionized the European attitude toward culture and language and became aninspiration for new theories and disciplines. Employing language as a primary signs model facilitatedthe acknowledgment of a broad spectrum of social phenomena ranging from analyzing text to culturaland social practices. The imposing legacy of Ferdinand de Saussure embraces either works ofsemioticians for example Roland Barthes, Yuri Lotman, Christian Metz or Julia Kristeva or linguistssuch as Louis Hjelmslev and Roman Jakobson. Furthermore, semiotics determined theanthropological works of Claude Levi- Strauss leading to an innovative approach - structuralism

    (often identified with semiotics). Saussurian thought influenced also psychoanalysis, shaping views ofsuch an outstanding figure as Jacques Lacan. Nevertheless, the potency of the semiotic approach,namely applying language as a primary frame of reference, obstructs any profound examination of theimages and visual language. Saussures theory of signs provides us with contextual framework and aset of methods applicable to textual analysis, however, it seems to be inadequate to explorecomplexity of the visual images and to elucidate a broad spectrum of mutual verbal and visualrelationships. Although, a few semioticians attempted to formulate a visual theory based on language

    as a primary system, the significance of such works was rather marginal. Assuming that language andimage are comparable structures Fernande Saint-Martin in her book Semiotics of Visual Language

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    (1990) searched for an alphabet for images. French semiotician recognized visual elements parallel toletters and labeled them coloremes, identifying a basic element of an image color with the basicelement of a languageletter.Irving Biederman (1987) developed the theory of visual perception also based on the analogy betweenlanguage and image. His article published in Psychological Review, presumed that Similarly aslanguage is composed of limited number of phonemes (44 for English and 55 for all the languages inthe world) an image is constructed of parallel basic elements which the author called geometricalicons geons. The main f...


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