Semiotician Charles K. Bliss was born in Czernowitz, in Austria-Hungary, a city with a confluence of nationalities that “hated each other, mainly because they spoke and thought in different languages.” So Bliss invented a new language to encourage communication between speakers of different languages — “Blissymbols” were ideographic, meaning they conveyed ideas or concepts, and so were not beholden to any spoken language.
For example, the sentence above reads “I want to go to the cinema”:
- The symbol for “person” is attended by the number 1, indicating the first person.
- The heart indicates a feeling, modified by a serpentine line indicating “fire,” topped a caret, indicating that it’s a verb in this sentence.
- The symbol for “leg” also gets a caret, as it’s to be interpreted as a verb here.
- The symbol for “house” is modified by the symbol for “film,” and the arrow indicates movement.
The language never fulfilled its potential as a bridge among cultures, but it became popular in the 1970s in teaching disabled people to communicate, and an organization known as Blissymbolics Communication International oversees its applications around the world.