‘Silenc’ at CIID – Visualisation of silent letters in a language / Processing

This project by Manas Karambelkar, Momo Miyazaki and Kenneth A. Robertsen at the CIID explores how much of a language is silent. ‘Silenc’ is a visualization of an interpretation of silent letters within Danish, English and French languages done by eliminating or highlighting the silent letters within a prescribed text.

One of the hardest parts about language learning is pronunciation; the less phonetic the alphabet, the harder it is to correctly say the words. A common peculiarity amongst many Western languages is the silent letter. A silent letter is a letter that appears in a particular word, but does not correspond to any sound in the word’s pronunciation. A selection of works by Hans Christian Andersen is used as a common denominator for these “translations”. All silent letters are set in red text. When viewed with a red light filter, these letters disappear, leaving only the pronounced text.

Data Visualization 2012, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design with Golan Levin and Marcin Ignac
More photos here.

(thanks Andrew)


5 thoughts on “‘Silenc’ at CIID – Visualisation of silent letters in a language / Processing

  1. This is beautiful. I would definitely have an easier time pronouncing the French correctly if I could read it with the silent letters highlighted.

    As a Norwegian, however, the Danish version is simply a reminder of how ridiculous Danish is :)

  2. I think this is interesting, but in the sense that while these letters may be “silent”, most of them inform the actual pronunciation of the words or the meaning of the words.  It’s not like those letters are superfluous.

  3. Hello Kadiya, That’s a good point and we had that in mind as well. The code which we have developed is not yet perfected to consider all these factor since the project was done in 3 days. There is a lot of room for improvement in linguistic rules which we are using but using what we have now we were able to get a general idea about comparison between silent letter among different languages. Thanks a lot for the suggestion : )   – Manas K

  4. Might need to brush up on your French “liaison”, because certain letters are not silent. Not even in the sense that Kadiya mentioned, some do more than just informe the rest of the word. e.g. “les oiseaux” is effectively pronounced “le Soiseaux”. 

  5. It’s a wonderful project. Many of languages with time get rid of the silent letters, and lose a great part of the history of their words. And what is wonderful I think, is that a old language like Sanskrit never had silent letters, but in other hand, the words are so silent, so scientific, so meditative.

    Nice work.

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