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Blissymbolics - The Emergence of a Written Language

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ryan Prescott Adams.

Blissymbolics was first used with children with complex communication needs (CCN) in Canada in the 1970s. Despite its linguistic characteristics, the acceptance of Bliss as a written language only emerged in 1998. The fundamental rules document ( was developed to reflect the linguistic terminology adopted in line with the registration of the Bliss character set.

Ongoing research at Dundee University has illustrated ways in which Blissymbolics can be manipulated as a language. The Blissword project has developed a prototype Bliss wordprocessor which provides users with access to the entire Bliss vocabulary. Student projects have also focused on natural language translation using stochastic prediction and automatic concept interpretation. However, implementation of these prototypes is limited as we still await the development of a Bliss font.

This talk will introduce the fundamentals of the Blissymbolics language and will summarise some of the research undertaken at Dundee, including the latest stage in the development of a Bliss font.

Selected Blissymbolics References
  • Andreasen, P.N., Waller, A., & Gregor, P. (1998). BlissWord – Full Access to Blissymbols for all Users. In: Proceedings of the 8th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Dublin, Ireland, 167-168.
  • Arnott, J.L, Alm, N., & Waller, A. (1999). Cognitive prostheses: communication, rehabilitation and beyond. In: Proceedings IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics (Tokyo, Japan, 12-15 October 1999) IV, 346-351.
  • Waller, A, McNaughton, S, Koerselman, E, Jennische, M, Nelms, G (2000). Blissymbolics – the emergence of a written language. In: Proceedings of the 9th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) (Washington, USA , 2- 6 August 2000) pp.364-365.
  • Waller, A. (1998). Pragmatic approaches to the design of augmentative communication systems. In Proceedings of IEEE International Workshop on Robotic and Human Communication Conference (Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, 30 September – 2 October 1998) Vol. 2,263-267.
  • Waller, A. & Jack, K. (2002). A predictive Blissymbolic to English translation system, In: J.A. Jacko (ed.), ASSETS 2002 (The Fifth International ACM Conference on Assistive Technologies, 8-10 July, Edinburgh, Scotland 2002), 186-191.
  • Waller A., Oosterhoorn E. & Andreasen P.N. (2000). A Language Independent Bliss to Sentence Translation System.Communication Matters. 14(3), 9- 10.


Dr. Annalu Waller is a rehabilitation engineer who has worked in the field of Augmentative and Alternate Communication (AAC) since 1985. She established the first AAC assessment and training centre in South Africa in 1987. Her doctoral research highlighted the need to provide access to conversational narrative in AAC systems. She has published widely in the areas of story telling and the design of effective AAC devices. Dr Waller is a lecturer in the School of Computing at Dundee University. She serves on the boards of several disability-related charities and travels widely as an invited speaker.

This talk is part of the Inference Group series.

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