The architecture of language: an exploration in 3D

Link for joining the seminar on Teams

If you would like to attend in person, please contact kate.atherton(a) to register before noon on Friday 5 November. Places are limited.

Natural language is a high-dimensional form that evolved through innovation and repetition over millennia. We tend to imagine language in the shape dictated by our writing system, as words on a page, or as sound. The aim of this paper is to explore how one aspect of this high-dimensional form could be rendered in 3D. Contemporary software developed for the production of film and video animation became a tool for us to model natural language. The paper begins with an overview of historical material about features of language and computational design that became relevant for our project. The whole system and structure of a language, its grammar has been compared to a geometry for centuries, as principles that define its shape. We selected one aspect of this complex configuration for 3D modelling; evidentiality. This aspect is present in every language and points at the evidence for what people are saying. The paper lays out the research trajectory that allowed us to conceive of evidentiality as a third dimension, which is often lost in translation.  We offer a step-by-step account of our methodology and 3D design process. Our findings consist of four introductory prototypes and digital 3D images, each one designed on the basis of a short language sample. The portrayal of a language excerpt as a digitally frozen shape enabled us to print natural language in 3D.  Such 3D language objects not only extend the legacy of form-finding within computational design, but also allows for spatial intuition to help us get a more solid grasp of languages we may not speak. (Paper co-authored with Emma-Kate Matthews, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London)

ISCA Departmental Seminar Series Michaelmas 2021

3pm, Fridays (Weeks 2-8) on Teams (link above)

Details will be added here if any of the seminars will also be held in person.

Convened by Elisabeth Hsu and Zuzanna Olszewska