Spatial Parsing for Visual Languages


Spatial parsing can be used as a context to investigate the similarities and differences between visual linguistics and verbal linguistics. A preliminary itinerary for the explorations:

Similarities to verbal linguistics:

Differences from verbal linguistics:

Further visual linguistic research will try to uncover the common internal structures related to meaning which go across the different visual languages described in this paper. Such an "internal structure which is organized for meaning" is opposed to the "external structure organized for expression; the concrete form" 14 the visual communication objects. This paper has dealt with the varieties of external structure in visual languages, but we feel the tug of the linguistic quest: the intuition that although diagramming systems may vary, there are some universals which go across visual languages. We observe that the same meaning can be expressed by diagrams in two different notations using two different syntaxes. Given the right representation for semantics, then perhaps that same representation could be `run through' the two different syntaxes to produce the two different diagrams 15

12 Alex Pentland coined the term `visual morpheme' for use in his work with the perceptual organization of natural form [Pentland86].

13 Richard Steele has pointed this out for the VIC language [Steele85].

14 Using the definitions of functional-structure and constituent-structure, respectively, from lexical-functional grammar [Bresnan82].

15 Relates to Mackinlay's work on automatic generation of diagrams [Mackinlay83].