As once the famous Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure got to the truth about the way language systems perform through the time, the staffette was taken by My Name is Wendy Studio. Guys have chosen to invent something fresh: a project, where interactive design borders on linguistics. So in 2013 they embarked on the language of design called Matahari.
Did someone say “language”? Oh, it’s time to launch my “nerdy facts” machine and follow you into the core of this project with all the consequences. From the course of linguistics at university, I remember there are not so many purposes for creating an artificial language. First, it can be used as a tool for social groups to separate themselves from the others. Otherwise, to become more discrete speaking the made-up language and spread secret information by codes.
And the last reason is connected with technical field people happened to work in like engineering, IT technologies, medicine, chemistry etc, where this language consists of professionalisms. However, strictness aside, anyone can come up with a legitimate purpose to carry out a new language. If you haven’t been using some abracadabra words with your peers at school, you’ve missed a great part of your childhood.
As it’s stated on the project’s page, Matahari is a graphic language of visual communication, which can be described as “secret, utopian and ambiguous”. Its main aim is to represent a means for composing abstract, cryptic and love messages. My name is Wendy is a Parisian studio, so they were destined to operate with French as a basis while working on Matahari, consequently adjusting it to English but only for the showcasing.
The creators, Carole & Eugénie, have told us that this project was influenced mainly by their common interest in coded languages. “The Morse code is fascinating for us, it uses the rhythm of sound. As graphic designers, we wanted to use this opportunity to create a language with rythm of visual forms”.
Spilling out more peculiarities. The word “Matahari” itself is not an invented one. It comes from Indonesian mata (“eye”) + hari (“day”) and in total means “sun” — valuable linguistic tip. But hold on, there is one more thing coming up ahead. Mata Hari is the scene name of Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, exotic dancer working as a double agent during World War I. Codes, secret language, the famous spy — not it perfectly justifies the choice of the language’s name.
How it operates?
The project is in a constant development. By now, there are 367 carefully-systemized signs, each meaning single language unit. This number of elements includes adverbs (for denoting time, place and quantity), pronouns (personal and possessive), and articles. And 10 tenses as overkill for the grammar-struggling ones. There’s a curious detail, making Matahari very close to Egyptian hieroglyphs at this point: every symbol replaces a notion or a group of them. Also, the phrases must be read vertically.
Of course, everything is not that easy! In addition, Matahari possesses 3 separate systems for creating verbs, auxiliaries, common and proper names. “It is possible to create a form for an article, or an adverb as there is a limited number of them. But it’s impossible to do the same for common or proper names. The only solution was to create a system, like a dial or a reading scale,” — as it’s described by the studio.
So let’s say you need to compose a phrase, containing name, action and an object, for example, “Matahari is a language.” So, you’ll need three completely different schemes to express this idea. In other words, you should be able to carry in mind three language systems simultaneously for arranging your sentences including all these categories. Take that, brain!
Experiments like this can be surely classified as curious crossovers of a design system and linguistics. I can’t hide my sincere admiration by the way science collaborates with art, leaving a vast space for ingenious ideas and creative manifestations. It still lacks some elements like schemes for building questions or adjectives. Anyway, we’ll make sure to keep an eye on this visual communication design and see the way Matahari evolves through time.