An overview of my project (so far)
This project explores various methods to create a dialogue between two diverse cultures. Dialogues, essentially a manifestation of language transmitted between two or more entities, are most thoroughly expressed as scripts, letterforms and typography. Dialogues involve informative matter relayed and received, possibly contributing to a learning process, whereby one or both of the entities are affected and changed, however slightly.
Is there any merit to the English language and script acquiring elements of Arabic orthography, structure and typographic/calligraphic visual style? Can this borrowing of alien aspects create a more relevant bilingual conversation?
Theoretical research involved looking into linguistic structures, calligraphy, origins of the alphabet and structures of other scripts including asian and Semitic scripts, as well as experimental reform projects for the english language. Experimental work conducted so far has segmented the project into four directions, which aim to find answers by conducting several different experiments, each considers a separate element of orthography or typography individually, with the possibility of cross-over between the different approaches.
The first path attempts to produce a consonantal english script, which requires a pointing system (vowel indication), which may be utilized according to certain conditions, to achieve maximum readability. Consonantal scripts are semantically and syntactically interpreted, the missing vowels are mostly supplied by the reader. In English orthography, however, elimination of vowels must consider the non-phonetic word formations, initial vowels, diphthongs and in some cases, change of consonant phonetic values when combined with certain vowels. It is worth noting that vowel omission has already been utilized in English extensively in the past few years, due to text messaging, tweeting and chat forms, albeit randomly.
The second path reworks letter-and-word forms based on a strict grid, based on the Kufi geometry. The Kufic script is an Arabic hand, a variant of which has evolved into an ornamental square configuration, which encompasses stacking of letters or words into geometric forms. Kufi has often included arabesques into its typographic designs.
The third path abstracts letterforms of both English and Arabic alphabets into core modules, in an attempt to utilize the Arabic method of differentiating letterforms through the use of diacritical dots. Both alphabets currently employ recurrent shapes, differentiated by various methods, in English, ascenders, descenders and orientation have been used, for example, b d p and q are formed from the same elements, with different vertical or horizontal orientations. Other methods have also been used (m and n, for example). This new proposed system reverts letters to their basic shapes, and utilizes dots instead of other means as the main differentiator. Similar treatment will be applied to Arabic.
The last part of the project is a study of the proportions, visual structure and general texture of Arabic and its possible application to Roman script. X-height to cap-height proportion, horizontal to vertical stress, descender forms, reading directions, ligatures and connected glyphs are aspects to consider in this project.
Reading exercises. The first consists of several attempts of vowel omission or replacement, omitting vowels, vowels as superscript, vowels as diacritics (appropriating existing glyphs), displaying only vowels of stressed syllables.
The other deals with reading directions, simply flushed right, or reflected, right bound.
The texts used are chapters from Amin Maalouf’s ‘In the Name of Identity, Violence and the Need to Belong’
A term used by students of writing to distinguish writing systems whose basic units denote meaningless sounds from those whose units operate on a level of meaningful linguistic entities. Cenemic (Gk κɛ v ôς ‘empty’) indicates that the unit of a writing system, for example, an alphabetic letter or a Japanese kana , is devoid of any inherent meaning. By contrast, a Chinese character is associated with both a sound and a meaning: systems of this kind are called pleremic . Thus, in the analysis of writing systems, two basic types are distinguished: those operating on the level of sense-discriminative elements (phonemes, syllables), i.e. cenemic; and those operating on the level of sense-determinative elements (lexemes, morphemes), i.e. pleremic
Some of the experiments I’ve been working on, under vowel omission, square kufi, and letterform abstractions.
note: the kufik experiments found in the pdf are based on a similar project by Keira Yang, who adapted the Roman alphabet into Chinese arrangements. The project can be found in Lead Between the Lines.
really cool work, more on his website below: