The Info List - IConji

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iConji is a free pictographic communication system based on an open, visual vocabulary of characters with built-in translations for most major languages. In May 2010 iConji Messenger was released with support for Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod) and most web browsers. Messenger enables point-to-point communication in a manner similar to SMS.[1] In December 2010, iConji Social was released as a web application only, with support for Facebook and Twitter as a broadcast medium. The application iConji Social supported delivery of iConji-enhanced messages via email. iConji debuted with 1183 unique characters, known as the lexiConji (vocabulary), culled from base words used in common daily communications, word frequency lists,[2] often-used mathematical and logical symbols, punctuation symbols, and the flags of all nations. The process of assembling a message from iConji characters is called iConjisation (see screenshot below at right). Since most characters represent an entire word or concept, rather than a single letter or character, iConji has the potential to be a more efficient communication system than SMS.[3] The usual jumble of text and confusing abbreviations can often be replaced by a short string of colorful icons that convey the identical meaning. With the iConji Messenger and iConji Social apps, characters are displayed at a resolution of 32 x 32 pixels, using color PNGs with transparency to round the corners. As all iConji characters are developed first as vector graphics, this allows essentially infinite scalability, whether for producing new online or smartphone apps, or full-size posters for printed graphic applications such as signs or electronic displays. Thus, future iConji applications, from in-house or outside developers, may incorporate larger or smaller versions of the characters using the freely available iConji API. In December 2012, further development of iConji was brought to a close.


1 Overview 2 Implementation 3 Inflections 4 Examples 5 Artist Community 6 Precedents 7 See also 8 References 9 External links


The iConji user interface on an iPod touch.

Kai Staats, founder and former CEO of Terra Soft Solutions, original developer of Yellow Dog Linux
Yellow Dog Linux
(YDL), was motivated to create a new communications system that combined the speed of SMS
with the richness and linguistic depth of a global art project.[4] His intent was to provide a means for communication that could bridge cultural divides. Thus, iConji is a pictographic communication system, not a spoken language. The characters themselves are evocative of their meanings, and designed to be as cross-cultural as possible. It is a difficult task to even attempt to make pictographic symbols universal in their meaning. Further, not all cultures read symbols or text from left to right, which is the standard for iConji. In addition, some linguistic concepts are too abstract to represent graphically. The first row in the image at right (The iConji user interface on an iPod.) shows characters for the pronouns (I, you, we, he, she, it, them), and the "tilde" which is defined as "to be" and its numerous conjugations (is, are, was, will be, and so on). These abstract concepts represent a significant barrier to universal pictographic representation, but the ability to read a translation in one's native language (if needed) can help bridge that gap. The character at far right is the "null" and can be used as a space, a placeholder, or a container for metadata. Unique to iConji is its inclusion of both an inferred meaning, suggested by the pictographs themselves, and the translations that accompany each character. At the close of 2010, these translations included Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Spanish, and Swahili. Esperanto
and Thai are works in progress.[citation needed] There is no practical limit to the number of languages that could be translated and included. Likewise, there is no limit to the number of individual characters that could be incorporated. The iConji vocabulary is open to revision - anyone in the world may design and contribute new characters for use in global communications. Through the Artist Community, users are able to add their own characters to the lexiConji (with approval), or revise existing character icons they feel could be better represented graphically. Implementation[edit] The screenshot above shows most features and functionality of the iConji application. Starting at top right, the search icon (magnifying glass) opens a text field in the dark blue window that allows a text search for specific characters. Below that is the "To:" field, where the recipient can be inserted from a built-in address book. Below that is another field where selected iConji characters can be assembled into a string to compose the message (iConjisation). The next section down is a 6x9 matrix of characters from which the user can select specific characters. In the iOS applications this is accomplished by a finger-tap; in the browser application by a point-and-click. In both cases, a hover pops up a small box displaying the definition of the character in the user's declared language. The bottom-most line consists of what are called buckets. Each user-customizable bucket contains another 54 characters that can be grouped by type or frequency of use. The seventh bucket contains 54 commonly used mathematical and logical symbols. The eighth bucket is "bottomless" and serves as a repository for all other characters, with no limit to the number contained. Selecting that bucket generates a scrollable list of those characters. "It is the user's customization of these buckets that enables iConji to rival or exceed SMS
in terms of efficiency and speed."[5] Inflections[edit] A few other modern pictographic systems use inflection symbols to expand meanings, for example, Blissymbolics, but none have the full range of character inflections allowed in iConji[citation needed]. Those include inflections for present, past, or future tense verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and possessives. The user can also add metadata, if desired, to clarify the meaning or include additional text content. All inflections are indicated as glyphs at standardized positions around the base and top of the iConji character. In most cases the inflection should be apparent from context, but for messages where ambiguity could arise, inflections provide a means to remove that ambiguity. For example, the gallery below shows four inflected variations of the character defined as "start, to start."

start (noun)

to start (verb)

did start (past)

will start (future)

started (adjective)

Many iConji characters follow this noun + infinitive verb format to enable unambiguous translation from its base English into other languages. Given the widely varying conventions for verb conjugation found in other languages, this is arguably the most flexible way to present a base definition. Examples[edit] The sample iConjisation shown on the screenshot translates as follows:






This demonstrates clearly how meaning can be conveyed using a minimal number of characters. The fourth character is formally defined as "clock, time" but would be interpreted as "o'clock" when used in this context. If the sender and receiver usually meet for coffee at the same location, no other information is needed. If the intended location is different from the usual, the iConjisation could be changed to:


at + meta




Here, the triangular inflection mark on the second character (at) indicates the presence of metadata in that character. Metadata
can be added or accessed via a text box pop-up by clicking on the character, and could include a business name, address, GPS
coordinates, or other information. Alternatively, the sender can convey more specific location instructions using the characters themselves, for example:








In this example, the third character (I, me) has been inflected with the possessive modifier, changing the meaning to "my." The two instances of the "@" character are included for grammatical clarity, but could likely be excluded without changing the interpreted meaning. In all of these examples, the recipient's response could be similarly concise, as the following three examples show:






or simply


In the first response, we see the flexibility of the iConji system, as well as some word-play. The first character is formally defined as "sound, audio" and can thus be used in many contexts. The second character is formally defined as "angelic, saintly, good" implying the overall meaning "sounds good." In the second response, additional information is returned by the recipient requesting the sender to "arrive early" using the adverb modifier on "early." Whether the adverb modifier is really needed is a matter of question since, between frequent users, certain conventions will become established by previous usage. In the final and most concise response, only a single character (yes) is returned by the recipient. Artist Community[edit] In February 2011 iConji launched its Artist Community. Anyone who saw the need for a new character, or a better version of an existing character, was encouraged to create and submit a unique design. There were several criteria for acceptance of a submitted character, but the process was made simple using freely available online graphic templates, instructions, and examples. Character icons were created as vector graphics in tools such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, or the free online application SVG-edit. Alternatively, the proposed character icon could be hand-drawn, scanned as a 300 dpi bitmap, and converted to vector graphics format before being submitted as a potential addition to the iConji vocabulary. Definitions for the characters also follow a strict format and, where ambiguities could exist, need to follow a format that utilizes extended definitions to remove those ambiguities, both for users and translators. For example:

miss [the salutation for an unmarried female] miss [the feeling of sorrow resulting from someone or something lost] miss, to miss [the act of not connecting with a target or goal]

Note how the last example again defaults to the “noun + infinitive verb” format mentioned above. The artist also had the opportunity, if desired, to associate metadata with their character explaining the story behind the design, who they are, and their country of residence. Once accepted, the character was made available for use globally, by all iConji users. The artist had the ability to track the use of their character using the iConji Explorer application on the iConji website (no longer maintained). The first iConji Communications workshop[6] was held at Colorado State University on April 7, 2011. 40 participants representing a dozen countries convened to discuss the cross-cultural potential of this pictographic system. Over 100 new pictographs were designed and entered into the iConji vocabulary.[7] Precedents[edit] There has been no shortage of attempts to create a new and “better” universal language. An exhaustive account of these efforts can be found in the book “In the Land of Invented Languages” by Arika Okrent. According to Okrent, in the last thousand years, more than 900 languages have been invented, often by individuals who believed they had a universal solution for global, cross-cultural communication.[8] About a dozen of these are based on pictographs.[citation needed] Most attempts at creating a new language failed due to overly-ambitious goals, or eccentricities of their inventor. Of all the recently invented pictographic systems, Blissymbolics is the most successful to date. It is used to assist communications-challenged individuals, providing them a structured means by which they may convey concepts, and more recently, providing a “point and click” software interface. The Noun Project[9] is another effort to establish cross-cultural communication. It purports to be a repository of universal icons, but suffers the same ambiguities as previous "universal language" attempts. The icons therein are primarily from public-domain icon databases, for example, restroom, traffic, mall, and airport icons, not all of which translate across cultures. The collection does include icons designed by individuals, but currently lacks guidelines for design beyond their stated desire for "scale, proportion, and shape."[10] Also of note is Emoji, based on a vocabulary of 722 emoticons, and popular in electronic communications throughout Japan. Emoji
icons are heavily slanted toward conveying emotional "punctuation," and more useful in augmenting SMS
than in communicating complete stand-alone messages. Other pictographic systems have been less successful, as described here: List of writing systems. There have also been many attempts to create universal spoken languages, the most notable of which is Esperanto. For more examples, see Universal language. See also[edit]



^ Tatti, Kristen (2010) New iConji language for the symbol-minded, Northern Colorado Business Review ^ Tagg, Caroline (2009) A corpus linguistics study of SMS
text messaging, Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham ^ Pakalski, Ingo (2010) Icons for barrier-free communication, IT News for Professionals (in German) ^ Kaplan, Jeremy A. (2010) Inventor Proposes New Language for Cell Phone Messaging - Using Hieroglyphics, Fox News ^ Staats, Kai. Personal interview by phone. 4 March 2011. ^ iConji website iConji workshop at Colorado State University ^ eSchool News (2011) Colorado State University Hosts iConji Language, Art Workshop ^ Okrent, Arika (2009). In the Land of Invented Languages. Spiegel & Grau. ISBN 0-385-52788-8.  ^ Skyler, John (2011) The Noun Project (website) ^ Skyler, John (2011) Mission of the Noun Project (website)

External links[edit]

iConji: Connecting the World

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Types of writing systems


History of writing Grapheme


Writing systems

undeciphered inventors constructed

Languages by writing system / by first written accounts






Arabic Pitman shorthand Hebrew

Ashuri Cursive Rashi Solitreo

Tifinagh Manichaean Nabataean Old North Arabian Pahlavi Pegon Phoenician


Proto-Sinaitic Psalter Punic Samaritan South Arabian

Zabur Musnad

Sogdian Syriac

ʾEsṭrangēlā Serṭā Maḏnḥāyā

Teeline Shorthand Ugaritic




Asamiya (Ôxômiya) Bānglā Bhaikshuki Bhujinmol Brāhmī Devanāgarī Dogri Gujarati Gupta Gurmukhī Kaithi Kalinga Khojki Khotanese Khudawadi Laṇḍā Lepcha Limbu Mahajani Meitei Mayek Modi Multani Nāgarī Nandinagari Odia 'Phags-pa Newar Ranjana Sharada Saurashtra Siddhaṃ Soyombo Sylheti Nagari Takri Tibetan

Uchen Umê

Tirhuta Tocharian Zanabazar Square Zhang-Zhung

Drusha Marchen Marchung Pungs-chen Pungs-chung


Ahom Balinese Batak Baybayin Bhattiprolu Buhid Burmese Chakma Cham Grantha Goykanadi Hanunó'o Javanese Kadamba Kannada Karen Kawi Khmer Kulitan Lanna Lao Leke Lontara Malayalam Maldivian

Dhives Akuru Eveyla Akuru Thaana

Mon Old Makassarese Old Sundanese Pallava Pyu Rejang Rencong Sinhala Sundanese Tagbanwa Tai Le Tai Tham Tai Viet Tamil Telugu Thai Tigalari Vatteluttu

Kolezhuthu Malayanma



Boyd's syllabic shorthand Canadian syllabics

Blackfoot Déné syllabics

Fox I Ge'ez Gunjala Gondi Japanese Braille Jenticha Kayah Li Kharosthi Mandombe Masaram Gondi Meroitic Miao Mwangwego Sorang Sompeng Pahawh Hmong Thomas Natural Shorthand



Abkhaz Adlam Armenian Avestan Avoiuli Bassa Vah Borama Carian Caucasian Albanian Coorgi–Cox alphabet Coptic Cyrillic Deseret Duployan shorthand

Chinook writing

Early Cyrillic Eclectic shorthand Elbasan Etruscan Evenki Fox II Fraser Gabelsberger shorthand Garay Georgian

Asomtavruli Nuskhuri Mkhedruli

Glagolitic Gothic Gregg shorthand Greek Greco-Iberian alphabet Hangul Hanifi IPA Kaddare Latin

Beneventan Blackletter Carolingian minuscule Fraktur Gaelic Insular Kurrent Merovingian Sigla Sütterlin Tironian notes Visigothic

Luo Lycian Lydian Manchu Mandaic Medefaidrin Molodtsov Mongolian Mru Neo-Tifinagh New Tai Lue N'Ko Ogham Oirat Ol Chiki Old Hungarian Old Italic Old Permic Orkhon Old Uyghur Osage Osmanya Pau Cin Hau Runic

Anglo-Saxon Cipher Dalecarlian Elder Futhark Younger Futhark Gothic Marcomannic Medieval Staveless

Sidetic Shavian Somali Tifinagh Vagindra Visible Speech Vithkuqi Wancho Zaghawa


Braille Maritime flags Morse code New York Point Semaphore line Flag semaphore Moon type


Adinkra Aztec Blissymbol Dongba Ersu Shaba Emoji IConji Isotype Kaidā Míkmaq Mixtec New Epoch Notation Painting Nsibidi Ojibwe Hieroglyphs Siglas poveiras Testerian Yerkish Zapotec


Chinese family of scripts

Chinese Characters

Simplified Traditional Oracle bone script Bronze Script Seal Script

large small bird-worm

Hanja Idu Kanji Chữ nôm Zhuang


Jurchen Khitan large script Sui Tangut


Akkadian Assyrian Elamite Hittite Luwian Sumerian

Other logo-syllabic

Anatolian Bagam Cretan Isthmian Maya Proto-Elamite Yi (Classical)


Demotic Hieratic Hieroglyphs


Hindu-Arabic Abjad Attic (Greek) Muisca Roman



Celtiberian Northeastern Iberian Southeastern Iberian Khom


Espanca Pahawh Hmong Khitan small script Southwest Paleohispanic Zhuyin fuhao


ASLwrite SignWriting si5s Stokoe Notation


Afaka Bamum Bété Byblos Cherokee Cypriot Cypro-Minoan Ditema tsa Dinoko Eskayan Geba Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics Iban Japanese

Hiragana Katakana Man'yōgana Hentaigana Sogana Jindai moji

Kikakui Kpelle Linear B Linear Elamite Lisu Loma Nüshu Nwagu Aneke script Old Persian Cuneiform Vai Woleai Yi (Modern) Yugtun

v t e



1829 braille International uniformity ASCII braille Unicode
braille patterns


French-ordered scripts (see for more)

Albanian Amharic Arabic Armenian Azerbaijani Belarusian Bharati

(Hindi  / Marathi  / Nepali) Bengali Punjabi Sinhalese Tamil Urdu etc.

Bulgarian Burmese Cambodian Cantonese Catalan Chinese (Mandarin, mainland) Czech Dutch Dzongkha (Bhutanese) English (Unified English) Esperanto Estonian Faroese French Georgian German Ghanaian Greek Guarani Hawaiian Hebrew Hungarian Icelandic Inuktitut (reassigned vowels) Iñupiaq IPA Irish Italian Kazakh Kyrgyz Latvian Lithuanian Maltese Mongolian Māori Navajo Nigerian Northern Sami Persian Philippine Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Samoan Scandinavian Slovak South African Spanish Tatar Taiwanese Mandarin (largely reassigned) Thai & Lao (Japanese vowels) Tibetan Turkish Ukrainian Vietnamese Welsh Yugoslav

Reordered scripts

Algerian Braille

Frequency-based scripts

American Braille

Independent scripts

Japanese Korean Two-Cell Chinese

Eight-dot scripts

Luxembourgish Kanji Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8)

Symbols in braille

music Canadian currency marks Computer Braille
Code Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8/GS6) International Phonetic Alphabet
(IPA) Nemeth braille code


e-book Braille
embosser Braille
translator Braille
watch Mountbatten Brailler Optical braille recognition Perforation Perkins Brailler Refreshable braille display Slate and stylus Braigo


Louis Braille Charles Barbier Valentin Haüy Thakur Vishva Narain Singh Sabriye Tenberken William Bell Wait


Institute of America Braille
Without Borders Japan Braille
Library National Braille
Association Blindness organizations Schools for the blind American Printing House for the Blind

Other tactile alphabets

Decapoint Moon type New York Point Night writing Vibratese

Related topics

Accessible publishing Braille
literacy RoboBraille

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Electronic writing systems

Emoticons Emoji iConji Leet Unicode

v t e

Internet slang
Internet slang

3arabizi Alay (Indonesia) Denglisch Doge Fingilish (Persian) Greeklish Gyaru-moji (Japan) Jejemon (Philippines) Leet
("1337") Lolspeak / LOLspeak / Kitteh Martian language (Chinese) Miguxês (Portuguese) Padonkaffsky jargon
Padonkaffsky jargon
(Russian) Translit Volapuk

See also English internet slang (at Wiktio