“In the next report I submitted, I suggested that the term ‘logogram’ was a misnomer because it implied that each graph represented a spoken word, when in fact the graphs didn’t correspond to our notion of spoken words at all. I didn’t want to use the term ‘ideogram’ either because of how it had been used in the past; I suggested the term ‘semagram’ instead.
It appeared that a semagram corresponded roughly to a written word in human languages: it was meaningful on its own, and in combination with other semagrams could form endless statements. We couldn’t define it precisely, but then no one had ever satisfactorily defined ‘word’ for human languages either. When it came to sentences in Heptapod B, though, things became much more confusing. The language had no written punctuation: it’s syntax was indicated in the way the semagrams were combined, and there was no need to indicate the cadence of speech. There was certainly no way to slice out subject-predicate pairings neatly to make sentences. A ‘sentence’ seemed to be whatever number of semagrams a heptapod wanted to join together; the only difference between a sentence and a paragraph, or a page, was size.
When a Heptapod B sentence grew fairly sizeable, its visual impact was remarkable. If I wasn’t trying to decipher it, the writing looked like fanciful praying mantids drawn in a cursive style, all clinging to each other to form an Escheresque lattice, each slightly different in its stance. And the biggest sentences had an effect similar to that of psychedelic posters: sometimes eye-watering, sometimes hypnotic.”
- “Story of your life“, Ted Chiang
This week we became BERG.
This is BERG.