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2.6 Elephant's Memory

Elephant's Memory was created by Timothy Ingen Housz. It consists of about 200 symbols and icons which can be combined in order to express sentences.

The system presents a playful learning environment oriented primarily towards children, and provides an explorational tool enabling new approaches to the concept of language. The pictograms develop a visual link between the members of a community, and provide an original material for families and educators to encourage dialogue and creativity.[IH94]

Elephant's Memory features original and artistic icons and symbols drawn in a coherent style. Its grammar is based on size on spatial relationships of the graphical elements comprising the picture. It is not strictly defined and allows authors to express themselves in a creative way, which is especially important for the targeted audience (children).

Let us have a look at some examples and explain them in detail in order to gain insight into Elephant's Memory. The examples are taken from the web site [IH94].

The first example is shown in Figure 2.14: ``Seeing elephants shot by men makes me cry.''.

Figure 2.14: Elephant's Memory: Seeing elephants shot by men makes me cry.

The elephant icon at the right is immediately recognizable. The two dots above it mean ``plural'', i.e. the meaning changes from ``elephant'' to ``elephants''. A man holding a gun denotes the verb ``shooting''. As the elephant is in direction of the gun these two elements combine to ``shooting elephants''. Above the ``shooting'' element a man and two dots are pictured. The two dots stand again for ``plural'' making these two elements denote ``men''. So the sentence so far describes ``men shooting elephants''. The process of ``shooting'' is related (by virtues of an arrow) to the symbol for ``seeing'': a face with an enlarged eye. Below the ``seeing'' element the ``I, my, me'' symbol is shown. Getting used to the Elephant's Memory drawing style it shows a face with an circle around it, the circle having an arrow at one end, pointing back to the face: ``myself''. So this part translates to: ``I see'' and combined with the structure on the right: ``I see men shooting elephants.'' The infinity symbol below ``I, me'' stands for a cause and effect relationship like ``something makes something else''. To the right of this symbol we see a sad face and a tear drop (denotes ``crying'') and again ``I, my, me''. So this means ``I cry'' and the cause is ``I see men shooting elephants'' or to put it in one sentence: ``Seeing elephants shot by men makes me cry''.

Figure 2.15 gives another example. At the left we see a ``frog'' and the symbol for ``shout, talk''. This means ``Frogs are shouting'' (notice again the plural dots above ``frog''). To the right we see elements for ``hear, listen'' (face with enlarged ear) and above it two small faces looking at each other with an arrow pointing from one face to the other (``you''). So far this translates to ``You hear frogs shouting.'' Below an open circle (a relationship symbol) and a upside down question mark are pictured. So the whole sentence translates to: ``Do you hear the frogs shouting?''

Figure 2.15: Elephant's Memory: Do you hear the frogs shouting?

A last example is given in Figure 2.16. Above the known ``I, my, me'' icon in the middle ``thinking'' is shown (a face with enlarged forehead or brain). Above that ``he, she, it'' is pictured: two faces with an arrow with one face turned away - note the difference from the `you'' symbol in the previous figure. At the top is the ``female'' element. Thus the upper part means ``I think of her''. The line below ``I, my, me'' means ``time'' and the mark in the middle denotes the present. Below it we have another relationship symbol (open circle) and the icon for ``day'' (a sun rising and setting) and ``plural'' dots. The lower part therefore means ``days'' or combined with the upper part: ``I am thinking of her everyday'' - note the role ``present'' plays in this sentence.

Figure 2.16: Elephant's Memory: I think of her everyday.

T. I. Housz also has written an application for Apple Macintosh computers where users can create their own sentences, browse in a language dictionary, or explore example sentences step by step. While it is apparent that this language has certain drawbacks, its spatial grammar and artistic design of icons and symbols are appealing.

next up previous contents
Next: 2.7 Vedo-Vidi Up: 2. Visual Languages Previous: 2.5 Bliss   Contents
Arno Hollosi 2001-01-09