Good examples of intercultural communications based on ideograms or common concepts?
February 22, 2009 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Good examples of intercultural communications based on ideograms or common concepts?

I'm not working in this field and I need very comprehensive examples, or descriptive experiments. I'm wondering what kind of grammar would be involved between an english and a mandarin speaker, for instance. Regarding the vocabulary used, what would be a bare minimum (In term of quantity and precision?)
Online resources arewelcome, of course. Thanks.
posted by Bio11 to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How about interspecies communications?

The Pioneer Plaque (jpg)
The Voyager Golden Record (jpg)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:19 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

All the links I have more directly related to the use of iconography for intercultural/cross-cultural communication are either pretty theoretical and more interested in other criticism than actual case studies (typically cultural studies or communications theory) or are focused on marketing and public signage, and I'm not sure that's useful.

Do you have any journal database access?

posted by snuffleupagus at 7:34 AM on February 22, 2009

Response by poster: snuffleupagus - Thanks, but assuming that you are talking to another human being broadens the common ground, and this is what I am interested in.
Regarding your links, I can take some level of abstractions and I am now piqued. :)
posted by Bio11 at 7:52 AM on February 22, 2009

I can't point you anywhere, but I would imagine international traffic and road signs would be a common language. I mean isn't the stop sign always a red octogon?
posted by Gungho at 9:32 AM on February 22, 2009

Aircraft safety cards.
I have collected a few myself precisely because they are good examples of a universal visual language.
posted by bru at 9:58 AM on February 22, 2009

I think it would be worthwhile reading about the development of pidgins in various places. In their very early stages they represent the most basic of communication tools, with stripped down grammer and constrained vocabulary. There has been lots of research on the commonalities of how pidgins develop and work, and the onwards process of creolization in which they become full languages.

Nicaraguan Sign language is a canonical example of a non-verbal language developed almost entirely from new and documented from its beginnings. Of course, it's not intercultural, but still very interesting.
posted by Sova at 9:59 AM on February 22, 2009

Best answer: You mean like the Kwikpoint cards? I don't have access to research papers right now for the science behind it, but they always seemed like a good idea to me.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:38 AM on February 22, 2009

Er, that is, to see if they've even been evaluated by whoever researches ideograms/symbolology.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:45 AM on February 22, 2009

Will be watching this with interest. In my working day I regularly communicate with people with whom I don't have a common language. This involves quite a bit of gesticulation, and usually goes very well, even though the people are from such varied places as Mongolia and Somalia. I know you aren't after anecdotals, but for example, closed seems to be very well understood from making a "finito", hands crossing over eachother gesture together with a headshake, and for that depends or remains to be seen, a weighing gesture and tilting head from side to side gets the point across. Also universal seems to be pointing "here" for today/now, forwards for tomorrow/next week etc, and the other direction for the past.
posted by Iteki at 11:01 AM on February 22, 2009

I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for, but the AIGA has international symbols/signs that you can download here. On that same page, they have an explanation for the need and reason for the signs, and how they were created... perhaps it is helpful.
posted by Houstonian at 11:43 AM on February 22, 2009

My comment will be useless, alas, because I can't cite my source...

There's a restaurant in Istanbul that caters to an international crowd. If you can't speak the language, you can simply make the sound of the animal you want to eat until the clerk shows you the correct picture. It was a very fascinating place to visit.
posted by jefficator at 12:03 PM on February 22, 2009

There is also the work being done to establish a way of warning future inhabitants of Earth about the nuclear crap we have buried all over the place. Wired story & slideshow. Menacing earthworks indeed.
posted by Iteki at 12:19 PM on February 22, 2009

My comment might be useless because the source is me. Don't know if you are looking for ancedotes but here is mine.

In my Mandarin listening class there were six beginner students and our teacher, who's English was not very good. One day when 3 people were sick, we spent class drawing stick figures on the white board and using bare minimum of what we could say, mostly nouns sometimes verbs rarely in the proper construction. "Sister (point at drawing) drive bus." It was a lot of fun and the most learning I did in her class. Throughout my semester there I found the best way to get my message across was to gesture while speaking. That way people usually understood what I meant, even when my tone wasn't right. There was a restaurant where I got carry-out from and the servers there were very sweet and patient with me. I would basically say "I want (insert one of my favorite dishes)". "In box (and I would point out the door)". The server would smile and nod, sit me down with some tea at a table near the door and process my order. When I left I took my friend who could speak much better Chinese and he helped me express my thanks for their great service. They all blushed and giggled and wished me a safe trip home."
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:33 PM on February 22, 2009

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