PASS: Picture
Giulia Bonora,
Giampiero Dalai,
Synsemic System. A new
Daniele De Rosa,
system for AAC habilitative
Marta Panunzi,
practices, theoretical
Luciano Perondi,
Cecilia Rubertelli
Recibido: 02.10.2019
Cómo citar este artículo:
Aceptado: 24.11.2019
Bonora, G., Dalai, G., De Rosa, D., Panunzi, M., Perondi, L., Rubertelli,
Publicado: 20.12.2019
C., 2019. PASS: Picture Augmentative Synsemic System. A new system
for AAC habilitative practices, theoretical background. Inmaterial. Diseño,
Arte y Sociedad, 4(8), pp. 33-78
In this paper we discuss the theoretical linguistic and gra-
phic preconditions of the design of PASS, a glyph system
which we designed for use in Augmentative and Alternative
Communication (AAC) habilitative practices that has been
released under open source licence.
We highlight the relevance of graphic design supporting
sustainable practices for people with Autism Spectrum Di-
sorders (ASD), in a context in which the offer of public heal-
thcare services for rehabilitation is insufficient.
We present the context in which the AAC is adopted and
how a glyph system can be used by people with ASD to learn
a language. Tis particular group of users can access a lan-
guage by using the glyph system as an interlanguage or as an
alternative language.
We analyse the most common glyph systems (ARSAAC,
PCS, WLS, Blissymbolics), highlighting their strengths and
weaknesses from a graphic and linguistic point of view.
We present the theoretical background of the design process
for the PASS glyph system.
Inmaterial 08. Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa, Marta Panunzi,
Luciano Perondi, Cecilia Rubertelli.
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In particular, we provide an in-depth description of the gra-
phic design strategy, which aims to develop a systematic and
consistent approach to the construction of the glyphs. Tis
approach is grounded in a reflection on how to solve the lin-
guistic problems raised by the valency model and Chomsky’s
generative grammar theory in the visual domain.
We have designed the core of the glyph system by detecting
the pertinent visual and linguistic variables in literature,
with the objective of developing the system for clinical expe-
augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), glyph system, PASS,
habilitation, autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
Inmaterial 08. PASS: Picture Augmentative Synsemic System.
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En este artículo se abordan los prerrequisitos teóricos, lin-
güísticos y gráficos del diseño de PASS; un sistema de gli-
fos proyectado por los autores para su uso en las prácticas
habilitadoras de Comunicación Aumentativa y Alternativa
(CAA), que ha sido lanzado bajo una licencia de código
Se pone de manifiesto la relevancia del diseño gráfico como
apoyo a las prácticas sostenibles para personas con Trastor-
nos del Espectro Autista (TEA), en un contexto en el que
la oferta de servicios de rehabilitación del sistema sanitario
público es insuficiente.
Se presenta el contexto en el que se adopta el CAA y cómo
un sistema de glifos puede ser utilizado por personas con
TEA para aprender un idioma; este grupo particular de
usuarios puede acceder a un idioma utilizando el sistema de
glifos como un interlenguaje o como un idioma alternativo.
Se analizan los sistemas de glifos más comunes (Arasaac,
Pcs, Wls, Blissymbolics) destacando sus fortalezas y debili-
dades desde el punto de vista gráfico y lingüístico.
Se presentan los antecedentes teóricos del proceso de pro-
yecto gráfico para el sistema de glifos PASS.
Inmaterial 08. Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa, Marta Panunzi,
Luciano Perondi, Cecilia Rubertelli.
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Y, por último, y muy especialmente, se describe en profundi-
dad la estrategia de diseño gráfico seguida y cuyo propósito
es llevar a la práctica la construcción de los glifos respon-
diendo a un enfoque sistemático y regular; este enfoque
parte de la reflexión sobre cómo gestionar, utilizando he-
rramientas visuales, los problemas que emergen del mo-
delo Valencial y de la teoría de la Gramática Generativa de
Es importante considerar que la estructura principal del sis-
tema de glifos ha sido proyectada identificando en la litera-
tura científica las variables visuales y lingüísticas fundamen-
tales, con el objetivo de desarrollar un sistema que estuviese
intrínsecamente preparado para la experimentación clínica.
Palabras clave:
comunicación aumentativa y alternativa (CAA), sistema de glifos, PASS,
habilitación, trastornos del espectro autista (TEA)
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Te paper was writen collaboratively by the authors. Specifically:
1. Te urgent need for subsidiary healthcare practices. (G. Dalai, L. Perondi, C. Rubertelli)
1.1. Visual strategies for improving communication (G. Dalai, C. Rubertelli)
1.2. Books in symbols (or rather, glyphs) (G. Dalai, L. Perondi, C. Rubertelli)
2. Te importance of AAC as a means to access language and reading-writing competences. Goals and critical
aspects. (G. Dalai, M. Panunzi, L. Perondi, C. Rubertelli)
3. Analysis of the current systems supporting AAC (G. Bonora, G. Dalai, D. De Rosa, L. Perondi)
3.1. Analysis of PCS (Picture Communication Symbols) (G. Bonora, D. De Rosa)
3.2. Analysis of ARSAAC (ARgonés Sistemas Aumentativos y Alternativos de Comunicación) (G.
Bonora, D. De Rosa)
3.3. Analysis of WLS (Widgit Literacy Symbols) (G. Bonora, D. De Rosa)
3.4. Analysis of Blissymbolics (G. Bonora, D. De Rosa)
4. Building a new AAC system suitable for empirical experimentation. A linguistic and visual design perspective.
(G. Dalai, L. Perondi, C. Rubertelli)
5. Linguistic background (C. Rubertelli, M. Panunzi)
5.1. Towards a generative syntax of glyphs (L. Perondi, C. Rubertelli)
5.2. Agglutination (G. Dalai, D. De Rosa, L. Perondi)
6. Graphic background (G. Dalai, L. Perondi)
7. Te pictographic aspects of glyph design, the study of pictographic composition (G. Dalai, L. Perondi)
7.1. Te graphic implications of designing a system of glyphs (G. Bonora, G. Dalai, D. De Rosa, L. Perondi)
7.2. Atribution of visual variables (Bertin, 2011, p. 42) (G. Bonora, G. Dalai, D. De Rosa, L. Perondi)
7.3. Hierarchy and hierarchical distance (G. Dalai)
8. Future developments. A methodology for the development of glyph systems for clinical habilitation practices.
(G. Dalai, D. De Rosa, M. Panunzi, L. Perondi)
Inmaterial 08. Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa, Marta Panunzi,
Luciano Perondi, Cecilia Rubertelli.
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1. The urgent need for subsidiary healthcare practices
Given the current state of healthcare, there is an urgent need for habilitating
and rehabilitating practices which are subsidiary to hospital care and public
Communication design can play a fundamental role in the development of
artefacts supporting habilitation and rehabilitation practices for people with
Complex Communication Needs (CCN), and particularly those with Autism
Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Currently there are both rehabilitation practices (e.g. Augmentative and
Alternative Communication - AAC; ASHA, 2018) and supports for the ASD
diagnostic practice (e.g. Psycho-Educational Profile - PEP-R; Schopler and
Reichler, 1979; SINPIA, 2018, p. 22) (Fig. 1) in which graphical elements
play a fundamental role (see for example National Autistic Society, 2019;
Mirenda and Iacono, 2009).
Fig. 1. Example of images (pictograms)
which are used for ASD diagnostic purposes,
displayed in the PEP-R diagnostic manual.
Images retrieved from Schopler and Reichler
(1979, pp. 171, 175).
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In addition, the interfaces of medical instruments impact the ability of health-
care personnel to use such instruments efficiently; therefore, in this context,
visual design issues play a pivotal role.
In particular, rehabilitation practices which involve AAC instruments, the
reading of books and communication boards are in widespread use and are
well known for their utility (Costantino, 2011; SINPIA, 2018, pp. 65-68;
Iacono and Cameron, 2009; Chung, Carter and Sisco, 2012).
In Italy, these kinds of practices increasingly involve families and accredited
private structures. Te lack of shared diagnostic and therapeutic protocols
among local healthcare units and regions results in a fragmented offer of pu-
blic healthcare services and an overall lack of assistance for people with ASD
and their families (Chiaroti, Calamandrei and Venerosi, 2017, pp. 3, 13-14).
In order to ensure the sustainability of this kind of therapeutic model, it is of
the utmost importance to develop instruments that support communication
between patients and caregivers. Tere is a need for communication that does
not vanish when people with Complex Communication Needs (CCN) reach
the age of majority, a time when the relationship between the families of people
with ASD and the school system disappears. Tere is also a severe lack of
appropriate rehabilitation programmes in Italy for adolescents and adults with
psychiatric conditions (Chiaroti, Calamandrei and Venerosi, 2017, pp. 14-15).
In this context, a key point is providing lower-income families with the correct
and fundamental self-production tools and competences for the fabrication of
communication boards and other instruments for rehabilitation practices.
Te aim of our research is therefore to develop a system of glyphs by fo-
llowing an approach based on design and scientific research, in order to ena-
ble the control of graphic composition aspects and to test the effectiveness of
design choices.
In this article, we will discuss and propose our hypothesis on which compo-
sition criteria should be used while developing a set of symbols. We take into
account the visual features of the elements which constitute the symbols and
how a specific language (Italian, in this case) interacts with the graphic design
choices and how it affects the syntactic-semantic organisation of the symbol
From now on, we will be using the word “glyphs”, instead of the term “sym-
bols” (which is commonly used in related literature). In some semiotics
research areas (see Peirce, 2003), the term “symbols” is defined as a “sign with
an abstract relation to the meaning.” Moreover, in some areas of pedagogy
Inmaterial 08. Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa, Marta Panunzi,
Luciano Perondi, Cecilia Rubertelli.
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(see for example Piaget, 1950; Bruner, 1967; Bruner, 1984) which are closely
related to our argumentations, the locution “symbolic thinking” is related to
abstract and metaphoric thinking.
Terefore, the term “symbol” is ambiguous and may lead to misconception.
Instead, we use the term “glyph” to refer solely to the visual shape of a sign as
this term is used by Te Unicode Consortium (Unicode, 2004), which is de-
voted to establishing the standards for the codification of writen languages.
1.1. Visual strategies for improving communication
As Hogdon (2004) describes, with the locution “visual strategies for impro-
ving communication” we define a group of tools which enhance the ability of
children to understand and interpret information.
On an everyday basis, children with CCN and ASD use visual supports
which are tailored to the subject’s specific condition.
Among these tools, some of the most commonly used in habilitation and
rehabilitation practice are communication boards, labels for objects and envi-
ronments, and activity timetables (National Autistic Society, 2019).
Communication boards are structured collections of glyphs which allow
children to express their needs, feelings and thoughts. Te boards are tailored
to each individual and their aim is to enhance the children’s communicative
competence and social interaction (Costantino, 2011).
Beukelman and Mirenda (2014) show how the most common communica-
tion boards display a grid layout, which is organised according to different
— semantic-syntactic: in the original version from Fitzgerald,
pictograms are organised by following a precise semantic-syntactic
sequence from lef to right: who (substantives), actions (verbs),
modifiers (adjectives, etc.), what (complements), where, when, etc.
(Beukelman and Mirenda, 2014, p. 361) (Fig. 2);
— taxonomic: the pictograms are organised by semantic categories,
e.g. people, places, feelings, etc.; or
— by activity: the pictograms are organised by following a scheme
pertaining to a specific activity or routine.
Te most commonly used communication boards are the “main boards
(Fig. 3), namely those which include the “essential core or the vocabulary of
the child with CCN” (Costantino, 2011, p. 73).
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Fig. 2. Detail of a board based on a seman-
tic-syntactic structure. Image retrieved from
Beukelman and Mirenda, 2014, p. 361.
Fig. 3. An example of a child’s main board
used for eliciting communication interac-
tions. Image courtesy of Elisabeta Cane,
speech and language therapist.
Fig. 4. An example of drawer labelling. Te
drawers contain cutlery (“posate”) and
a tablecloth (“tovaglia”). Image courtesy
of Elisabeta Cane, speech and language
Fig. 5. A child’s activity timetable. Te
cards list the activities which the child will
complete during the rehabilitative session.
Image courtesy of Sara Scoto, speech and
language therapist.
Inmaterial 08. Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa, Marta Panunzi,
Luciano Perondi, Cecilia Rubertelli.
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Te labelling of environments with pictograms (Hodgon, 2004) aims to des-
cribe the environment through a communication system that is well known
to the child, and which they can exploit to navigate the environment without
feeling insecure or anxious. Te pictograms are stuck on an object in order to
identify it, or on a container to identify its contents (Fig. 4).
Te activity timetables (Costantino, 2011, p. 65) allow caregivers to describe
the schedule of activities, parts of the day, the whole day, weeks or longer pe-
riods. Teir aim is to highlight a routine, providing the children with a sense
of predictability of events (Fig. 5).
1.2 Books in symbols (or rather, glyphs)
As Costantino (2011, p. 76) describes, in order to facilitate access to reading
for children with CCN, starting in the late ‘90s rehabilitation practitioners in
Italy began using tailored “books with symbols”, which were built around the
needs of each child.
Tese books are mainly of two types (Costantino, 2011):
— reworked books: existing books which have been adapted to
make them more accessible (e.g. a streamlined version of Litle Red
Riding Hood, built with materials which allow the child to beter
interact with the book Fig. 6); or
— customised books: books that are built from scratch based on the
experience and needs of the child.
A large collection of reworked and customised books developed by specialist
personnel is available in the Special Library of Centro Benedeta d’Intino
Onlus, one of the most important Italian centres specialising in AAC.
More recently, new projects have emerged, which aim to transpose books
that are already available on the market into glyphs. Tese book series have
been publicly distributed in places such as libraries and local health depart-
ments (see for example the inbook library network, Costantino, 2011; Libri per
tuti, Fondazione Paideia, 2019). Several Italian publishers (Homeless Book,
Clavis, Erickson, Uovonero, Mondadori, Giunti, DeAgostini, GeMS) are
currently experimenting with traditional books and digital devices by produ-
cing glyph-based narrative books (Fig. 6, 7), while other publishers (Auxilia)
mainly focus on educational publications.
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Fig. 6. An example of a reworked book. Te text of Peppa Pig is reduced in length and writen
in symbols: “La maestra” (“the teacher”) “mete” (“put”) “un ceroto” (“a plaster”). Image
retrieved from D’Achille, S. (2014) Peppa—L’ospedale. Firenze: Giunti kids.
Fig. 7. Two pages retrieved from the glyph-based children’s book by Roberta Zilio and Valeria
Docampo (2019) La Bella Addormentata (Sleeping Beauty). Novara: DeAgostini.
2. The importance of AAC as a means to access language and
reading-writing competences. Goals and critical aspects.
As the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA, 2018)
describes, “Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is an area
of clinical practice that addresses the needs of individuals with significant
and complex communication disorders characterised by impairments in
speech-language production and/or comprehension, including spoken and
writen modes of communication. AAC uses a variety of techniques and
tools, including picture communication boards, line drawings, Speech-Gene-
rating Devices (SGDs), tangible objects, manual signs, gestures, and fingers-
pelling, to help the individual express thoughts, wants and needs, feelings,
and ideas. AAC is augmentative when used to supplement existing speech,
and alternative when used in place of speech that is absent or not functional.
AAC may be temporary, as when used by patients postoperatively in intensive
care, or permanent, as when used by an individual who will require the use of
some form of AAC throughout his or her lifetime.”
With regard to the field of visual communication design, AAC makes use of
the visual mode with the aim of lowering the threshold for access to langua-
ge, facilitating the learning process for people who privilege this mode over
Te end users of AAC (i.e. therapists, educators, people undergoing habi-
litating processes and their relatives and friends) can use this therapeutic
practice for a twofold purpose: as an (1) interlanguage, which can provide
access to linguistic competences pertaining to a specific linguistic region, and
as an (2) independent writing system, which provides access to language
competences tout court:
1. AAC can be used as an interlanguage.
An interlanguage (Giacalone Ramat, 2003) is a temporary linguistic
system which a learner adopts while trying to master an unknown
language. Tis system evolves constantly, and becomes richer when
the learner understands rules and structures. Te learner uses the
interlanguage as much as proper grammar for their learning and
language production.
2.AAC can be used as an independent writing system.
AAC can be used as an independent language, which means that it
is possible to communicate by using this system instead of Italian
or English. Tis means that the end users will utilise the glyphs
available in the writing system without referring directly to the
commonly used local language.
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In everyday practice, AAC is frequently supported by a communication
system, which is mostly a set of glyphs. As therapeutic practice with AAC is
tailored to individuals, there is currently no general consensus on the way the
AAC glyphs must be composed or the strategies of “translation in symbols”
(CSCA, 2015; Minardi, 2018). Tis is also evident in the analysis of the me-
thods for the transposition of texts in AAC carried out by the Italian publi-
shers mentioned in Section 1.2 Books in symbols (or rather, glyphs).
All the publishers we reviewed in Section 1.2 adopt a previously developed
pictographic system, which is ofen difficult to modify in its content and
visual composition, and also due to copyright.
Within this group of publishers, some follow a set of rules for the transposi-
tion of texts which is explicit and formal—In-book (Costantino, 2011), Libri
per tuti (Fondazione PAIDEIA, 2019), Homeless Book (Fare Leggere Tuti,
2017)—while others do not currently provide such a set of rules for compo-
sition, varying the transposition technique depending on the type of text.
Te In-book model transposes all the elements of a clause in glyphs, fo-
llowing a word-by-word approach. All the grammatical morphemes—which
are available to be transposed by the glyph composition system—are rende-
red visible and explicit.
Te Libri per tuti model is currently defined as “logic-semantic” (Fondazio-
ne Paideia, 2019, pp. 14-15); it focuses primarily on the semantic properties
of the clause and of the graphic signs, leting the alphabetic text interact with
the glyphs. Te alphabetic text is responsible for explicating the morphosyn-
tactic complexity of the Italian language.
ASD treatment programmes cannot be standardised as every rehabilitation
plan is tailored to the patient’s needs (SINPIA, 2018). Terefore, it is impor-
tant to allow for a variety of methods that can be used during rehabilitation
activities. On this point, we are highlighting (see Section 3) some problems
in the practical use of the most popular systems in Italy (CSCA, 2015; Cos-
tantino, 2011).
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3. Analysis of the current systems supporting AAC
AAC systems are simultaneously used by patients with ASD and their
communication partners (family, educators, friends and colleagues). Tere-
fore, the challenge in designing these systems lies in making them usable by
everyone involved in the communication process. Possibly due to this reason,
all the glyph systems we reviewed apart from Blissymbolics are mostly iconic.
We acknowledge that the obvious objective of the designers of these systems
is to lower the perceived threshold for typically developed users to access the
information conveyed by iconical glyphs. However, to our knowledge there
is no scientific proof that this feature actually makes understanding the glyph
semantics easier (Sevcik et al., 2018; Stephenson, 2009).
Tere are currently several AAC systems available on the market. In this arti-
cle we analyse the most commonly used in Italy (CSCA, 2015): Blissymbo-
lics, PCS, WLS and ARSAAC, with the objective of providing an overview
of the subject mater pertinent to our design reflections on AAC.
PCS, WLS and ARSAAC consist of a series of glyphs which represent
specific concepts or words (through depictions, metaphors and other visual
rhetorical strategies; for a discussion about visual rhetorical figures see Dalai,
Martini and Perondi, 2019). We could not find any evidence of regular or
consistent paterns behind their design or in their appearance.
For people with ASD, the lack of regularity in a system can be an insurmoun-
table obstacle to reading (Menyuk and Quill, 1985). Moreover, some of these
systems are mostly based on the English language, and therefore they follow
the structure of this language and contain no declension, no gender, no inflec-
tion, and no conjugation, which are, on the contrary, relevant in Italian. Con-
sequently, these systems need supplementary elements to work with Italian
and there is no general consensus on their usage (CSCA, 2015).
In all the systems, except Blissymbolics, the glyph is the basic articulation
(Martinet, 1949; Rossi-Landi, 2005, pp. 102-105); we cannot find a lower
level of articulation.
Te glyphs are ofen inscribed inside a “box” and are labelled using words
writen in the Latin alphabet (there is no consensus on the use-size-shape of
the box and on the position-case of the label; CSCA, 2015). Blissymbolics
differs significantly from the other systems, mainly because it shows a higher
number of articulations and because the glyphs are mostly non-pictographic.
Te glyphs of Blissymbolics consist of semi-finished parts which are joined
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together, similar to the various parts of leters (like the bowls of the “b” or “d”
leters). Te glyphs are the first articulation with a semantic value. When they
are combined together they make more semantic combinations: the clause.
In most cases, the glyphs of Blissymbolics appear to be abstract, and only in
some cases do they seem to have an iconic or analogical relation with their
meanings (Bliss, 1949).
For each of the following AAC systems, we propose an analysis of the regula-
rity features and the linguistic structure:
3.1. Analysis of PCS (Picture Communication Symbols)
PCS, is a set of colour and black-and-white drawings originally developed by
Mayer-Johnson Company for AAC (Costantino, 2011).
Regularity: No regularity is evident in PCS.
Linguistic structure: Te system is used mainly to reproduce the clauses
word for word (CSCA, 2015) and therefore it requires some punctuation be-
tween the glyphs. Moreover, since PCS is based on English, the system does
not convey some specific elements of the Italian language in a straightforward
manner, such as the masculine or feminine genders of the nouns and articles
(CSCA, 2015).
3.2. Analysis of ARASAAC (ARAgonés Sistemas Aumentativos y
Alternativos de Comunicación)
ARSAAC (ARSAAC, 2019) is a set of colour and black-and-white
drawings developed in Spain and funded by the Spanish Government.
Regularity: ARSAAC is the only free and open source AAC system among
those we analysed. Tis is particularly relevant for the economic sustainability
of families. Tanks to this level of freedom, the system is prone to triggering
some of the mechanisms of natural language, such as adaptability and flexi-
bility (see systolic and diastolic moments in Anceschi, 1992). Te drawback
is that the complete lack of composition rules may lead to a proliferation of
incoherent glyphs.
Linguistic structure: Composition, syntax and pictogram design is similar to
3.3. Analysis of WLS (Widgit Literacy Symbols)
WLS (Widgit, 2019) is a set of colour and black-and-white drawings develo-
ped in the UK by a company called Widgit.
Regularity: Several graphical elements show some degree of regularity in
their depiction, such as the shape of full-bodied humans, the arrows and
some other markers (dashes, dots etc.).
Linguistic structure: WLS can represent grammatical morphemes of the va-
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Fig. 8. PCS glyphs arranged to form two clauses: “Il re disse ai suoi figli: ‘Non lo farò mai’.”
(“Te king told his sons: ‘I will never do it.’”). Image retrieved from De Rosa, 2015, p. 67.
Fig. 9. Different glyphs from the Arasaac library, ofen expressing the same concept.
Fig. 10. WLS glyphs arranged to form two clauses. Image taken from De Rosa, 2015, p. 71.
Fig. 11. Blyss glyphs arranged to form two clauses. Image retrieved from De Rosa, 2015, p. 75.
rious parts of speech by using a set of graphical elements (Costantino, 2011).
On the other hand, there is no evidence of semantic coherence between
glyphs and grammatical elements. For example, the same arrow may be used
in the same size, shape and position with a different meaning and orthogra-
phic function. For instance, the verb “disse” (“he said”, in Italian) includes an
arrow pointing to the lef that stands for the past tense, but many arrows exist
in other glyphs such as “ai” (“to the”, plural), “lo” (“it”, object pronoun), “farò”
(“I will do”) and “mai” (“never”). Each arrow has a different semantic and
morphographic function (sometimes it is used as a suffix, sometimes as a part
of the glyph).
3.4. Analysis of Blissymbolics
Blissymbolics (Bliss, 1949; BCI, 2004) was invented by Charles Bliss
between 1942 and 1949. Te system, which was called World Writing until
1942 and Semantography until 1947, became Bliss or Blissymbolics in 1965.
Regularity: Due to its internal strict consistency and its regularity, it has
proved to work well in habilitative or rehabilitative processes ( Jennische and
Zeterlund, 2015; Alant et al., 2013; Bornman et al., 2009). As emerged in
CSCA (2015), Blissymbolics has the most consistent glyphs, and its gram-
mar, orthography and syntax are much more refined than the other systems
in use in Italy.
Linguistic structure: Blissymbolics was an experiment that aimed to create
a Universal Language. It was inspired by the Chinese writing system, with
recognisable English language paterns in syntax and grammar (Bliss, 1949;
Eco, 1996).
While discussing with clinical operators how to choose the most appropriate
glyph system for habilitation practices, we detected a possible weak point in
the use of Blissymbolics: it can discourage the communication partners of
people with CCN (such as educationalists, therapists and families) due to its
abstract glyphs and peculiar grammar. It might seem difficult to learn for an
adult who perceives the access threshold to be too high.
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4. Building a new AAC system suitable for empirical
experimentation. A linguistic and visual design perspective.
Afer the analysis we carried out on the current pictographic systems suppor-
ting AAC, we based the design of PASS on the following general principles:
1. sustainability;
2. regularity; and
3. independence from a specific language (as much as possible), but
based on both the properties of language and the properties
of images.
Te design of the features of PASS is based on a deductive approach groun-
ded in literature. Our purpose is to design a glyph system in which the inde-
pendent variables of visual composition are evident and ready to be tested by
following an empirical and/or clinical approach.
By following a dynamic perspective ( Jezek, 2005, p. 18), we define as lexica-
lisation the process through which, in a particular language, a specific concept
is related to a form, allowing the speaker to create a new unprecedented word
(Talmy, 1985).
Te process of creation of graphic signs can be interpreted as a form of lexica-
lisation, but with traits that are peculiar to writing and image composition.
Te steps of this process are as follows:
1. Definition and design of the constituent traits: the glyphs are
built from constituent traits (Dalai, Martini, and Perondi, 2019).
2. Definition of pertinent and facultative variants (Eco, 2016):
some of the constituent traits are pertinent and they are
fundamental for the viewer to discern one glyph from another.
Other constituent traits contribute to the connotation and the
contextualisation of the glyph (Dalai, Martini, and Perondi, 2019).
We assume a certain amount of “iconical transparence” (Moles,
1972; Peirce, 2003; Anceschi, 1992), even though it is not relevant
for our purpose whether iconic images are unambiguous or purely
conventional (Eco, 1975; Lussu, 2003). Indeed, the debate on
iconism that involved Umberto Eco and Tomás Maldonado
(Polidoro, 2012; Maldonado, 2005) during the ‘60s did not reach a
3. Definition of coherence criteria: Our hypothesis is that the
glyphs enhance their function (i.e. the reader can disambiguate
them, recognise them, infer new glyphs and new combinations of
glyphs from reading them, and use them in different composition
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systems) if they are coherent with each other (by following
coherence criteria discussed previously in Dalai, Martini, and
Perondi, 2019; Bertin, 2011).
4. Definition of entaxis and sinsemia: the structure underlying
PASS is built upon two different levels of composition: (1) the
entaxis level (Vaillant, 1999), which refers to the non-linear
composition of the glyphs, i.e. the position of graphic elements
acquires semantic meaning; and (2) the synsemic level (Perondi
and Perri, 2018) which refers to the graphical composition of the
glyphs and their usage in a specific therapeutic seting (however, we
will not discuss the synsemic level further in this paper).
Our objective is to set up the basic entactic rules of PASS in order
to allow for different modes of composition (linear or non-linear,
agglutinant or analytical syntax; see Sections 4.1.1 and 4.1.2) which
adapt to different therapeutic approaches.
Given that the PASS system should prove flexible enough to be used in
several contexts (with typically developing children, with a caregiver reading
along with a child with ASD, etc.), the system is built to provide a solid basis
for subsequent syntactic stratifications.
5. Linguistic background
When approaching the subject of syntactic composition, first of all it is im-
portant to define what we mean by clause. For the purposes of our work, we
have mainly drawn upon Lucien Tesnière’s valency grammar, in which a clau-
se is defined as “a structure, that is, an organised system in which words are
mutually dependant on each other” (De Santis, 2012, p. 18; free translation
provided by the authors of this article). Within a clause, two orders coexist: a
superficial linear order, which corresponds to the sequence of words, and an
underlying hierarchical order, which consists in “the connections established
by our mind” (De Santis, 2012, p. 18). Together with the valency model, we
refer to Noam Chomsky’s generative grammar theory for that which con-
cerns how humans generate and understand languages, and the interaction
between semantics and syntaxis (Chomsky, 1989; Graffi, 2012). Without
focusing further on the more theoretical linguistics issues related to Tesnière
and Chomsky, in the next section we discuss our synthesis of these theories
and the design of glyph systems.
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5.1. Towards a generative syntax of glyphs
According to recent approaches to generative syntax (Graffi, 2012; Fras-
carelli, Ramaglia and Corpina, 2014), each clause consists of a three-layer
1. the first and deepest layer is that of lexical selection (or Verb
Phrase, VP);
2. this is followed by the inflectional layer (or Inflectional Phrase,
IP), that is, the level at which verbal inflection and the
morphosyntactic structuring of the clause occur; and
3. on the surface is the modality layer (or Complementiser Phrase,
CP), which is built around the clause introducer known as the
Te VP layer (1) is the level at which the lexical selection of the verb occurs
and the thematic roles are assigned to its arguments. For example, in the sen-
tence “Luca eats an apple”, the verb “to eat” requires the presence of two argu-
ments (two-argument verb): the person who eats (Luca), which is assigned
the thematic role of AGENT (that is, a subject whose action is intentional),
and the thing that is eaten (the apple), which takes on the role of PATIENT
(that is, the passive recipient of the action). (See Puglielli, Frascarelli, 2008
for an in-depth analysis of the subject.)
Te IP layer (2) is where the traits related to grammatical information are
distributed, namely person agreement and tense, mood and aspect (TMA). It
is at this level that the universal deep structure acquires the properties that are
specific to each language. Finally, in the CP layer (3) the clause is completed
with the information related to discourse grammar and illocutionary force
(for some examples see Graffi, 2012, pp. 90-118, Fig. 12).
Fig. 12. Verb Phrase (VP), Inflectional
Phrase (IP) and Complementiser Phrase
(CP) layers and their interaction.
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Considering the properties inherent to the graphic code, we may hypothesise
that the glyph-based representation positions itself primarily on the first layer,
since it is strictly related to the semantic content. Let us consider for example
the clause “Luca fa la doccia” (“Luca has a shower”).
“Fare la doccia” (“to have a shower”) is a typical support verb construction,
in which “fare” has a limited semantic weight (light verb) and mainly serves
to express Luca’s agency, while also codifying the grammatical categories
that support the noun “doccia” (“shower”) on which the predicative force is
concentrated. As exemplified by the sentence above, the glyph does not rely
on the morphosyntactic layer, in which “have”—being the morphosyntactic
nucleus of the clause—would need to acquire the agreement traits; the glyph
is instead built at the VP level, that is, on the semantic portion, establishing as
it does a direct link with the conceptual content.
Fig. 13. PASS glyphs for the clause “Luca” “fa la doccia” (“Luca” “has a shower”).
Tanks to their range of iconic properties, glyphs therefore enable us to guide
the reader through the semantic nuclei without sacrificing morphosyntactic
specificities, which at this first level of representation rely on alphabetic text
(which constitutes the IP layer). In the context of shared reading, in which an
adult helps the child to interact with the glyphs (e.g. the “modelling” practi-
ce), the adult will convey the morphosyntactic complexity of the reference
language by reading the alphabetic text, while the child can visually engage
with the deep semantic content. In particular, the graphic properties of the
glyph enable the reader to achieve an even deeper level of synthesis, represen-
ting as they do both the AGENT and the action. Te deep semantic represen-
tation of a clause may therefore be expressed within a single glyph.
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Fig. 14. PASS glyphs “Luca fa la doccia” (“Luca has a shower”) and “Luca fa la doccia nudo”
(“Luca has a shower naked”), both are agglutinated.
Fig. 15. PASS glyphs for “Luca fa la doccia” (“Luca has a shower”) expressing the VP, IP and
CP layers.
However, for the purposes of achieving certain specific rehabilitative, didactic
or expressive goals, the connections inherent to the language may also need
expressing, so as to highlight, for example, the syntagmatic relationships
occurring between the different parts of a clause. In this case, the creation
of glyphs expressing elements such as determiners, prepositions, auxiliaries,
inflectional traits (e.g. TMA traits for verbs, and gender and number traits
for nouns) and complementisers would also enable the reader to interact at a
graphic level with the IP and CP layers.
5.2. Agglutination
As will be discussed further, it may therefore be beneficial to work on a
multi-layered system that makes it possible to modulate glyph representation
depending on the needs of the habilitative practice, moving between a strictly
semantic level (where glyphs are used in a more synthetic/agglutinating
way) and a morphosyntactic one (where a more analytical graphic structure
is used). In this article we do not discuss which of these two strategies is the
most effective; the objective of PASS is to provide clinicians with a tailored
instrument for clinical therapy and experimentation.
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Agglutination is “a grammatical process in which words are composed of a se-
quence of morphemes (meaningful word elements), each of which represents
not more than a single grammatical category” (Encyclopaedia Britannica,
2009). Examples of agglutinative languages include Japanese and Nahuatl. In
particular, Aztec writing, related to the Nahuatl language, “spells” agglutinative
words by agglutinating the glyphs (mostly pictograms). Terefore, we use the
term “agglutination” because we grounded PASS on the Aztec writing system.
Fig. 16. Aztec glyph “tepetl”, forming different agglutinating glyphs. Redesigned by the author Daniele De Rosa.
In PASS, the definition of a set of minimum units (types of morphemes)
allows them to be modified and combined to systematically design a large
amount of glyphs. Tis also occurs, for example, in Blissymbolics, where the
meaning is generated through the combination of different minimum units
and indicators. Tis process can be purely combinatorial, such as Blissym-
bolics, or involve plastic modifications of the basic elements, such as in the
Aztec writing system. PASS atempts to use both processes. For example, the
concept “couple” is represented by combining two pictograms in order to
build a new glyph (Fig. 17). Te verb “to want” combines the glyph which
stands for the subject (or the generalising element) with the one which
stands for the verb in a plastic way (Fig. 17, 18).
Fig. 17. PASS glyphs “volere” (“to want”), “volere un biscoto” (“to want a biscuit”) and “coppia” (“couple”).
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Fig. 18. PASS glyphs for “Luca mangia
biscoti” (“Luca eats biscuits”).
Fig. 19. We provide some other examples of
the agglutinative propriety of PASS glyphs
for the clauses “Luca” “corre” (“runs”),
“salta” (”jumps”), ”beve” (”drinks”).
6. Graphic background
As a consequence of all the issues raised in the previous sections, we defined
a series of construction criteria, which are also influenced by the contexts of
use of the system.
In particular, in order to make the system suitable for therapeutic use and
therefore flexible enough to function in various occasions of use, we propose
building the system botom-up from the components of the clause.
While developing a system of glyphs, the designers need to take into account
that the perfect mimesis with a specific language (including all its ambigui-
ties, etc.) cannot be an objective; this is a condition that affects every transla-
tion or transposition process, even the most encoded transcription systems.
As we discussed in Section 2, AAC systems can be used as a writen-graphic
language—which is more or less independent from the commonly used
local language of the users—or a transposition system for an already existing
language—which can be more or less literal. Terefore, the actual uses of an
AAC system like PASS lie somewhere on a continuum between these two
extremes. Indeed, in the current rehabilitation practices (Costantino, 2011;
Cafiero, 2009; Beukelman and Mirenda, 2014) the atempt to teach language
in a linear and sequential way asks for the expansion of a graphic system, in
order to provide a more ample segmentation of the glyphs which can graphi-
cally make explicit all the grammatical morphemes which would otherwise
remain implied in the agglutinated version.
To date, there is no evidence that an “insulating” transposition approach—
which transposes every grammatical morpheme—or an agglutinative
approach are favourable by themselves for aiding the teaching of a language
to people with ASD. Nevertheless, there is clinical evidence that a tailored
approach to this task according to the specific condition of the subjects is
necessary and favourable (SINPIA, 2018).
A system which is nearer to a writen-graphic language allows the reader/wri-
ter to use the agglutinative properties of depictive images (e.g. “Luca eats an
apple” can be writen by using a single glyph). Tis happens in Aztec writing
too (Fig. 20), however this writing interacts with Nahuatl, which is an aggluti-
native language on its own. Terefore the discrepancies between the two
languages are minimal. As we saw in the previous examples (Fig. 13, 14, 15),
in Italian and PASS the discrepancies are much bigger.
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On the other end of the abstraction continuum, if the objective of the glyph
system is to transpose a non-agglutinative language as the Italian (in order to
use AAC as an interlanguage), PASS needs to make use of abstract and arbi-
trary elements in order to reproduce grammatical morphemes (prepositions,
articles, conjunctions, auxiliaries, etc.) and inflectional features (gender and
number for names, time, aspect and modes of the verbs) (see figure 11 and
Te abstraction management processes which we defined and designed for
PASS are:
1. Te usage of a generalising element, which allows a sentence that
would be agglutinated to be segmented by replacing a specific
element (usually a verb) with the generalising element. For
example “Luca fa la doccia” (“Luca has a shower”) can be translated
with a single glyph, or with a sequence of glyphs in which the
element “Luca” inside the shower is replaced by a generalising
element “human” (a silhouete) and taken outside the “shower”
glyph (see Fig. 13 and 14).
2. When using abstract, very broad terms or auxiliary verbs, e.g.
“volere” (“to want”) or “fare” (”to do”) (Fig. 21), it is almost
impossible to avoid using metalogical rhetoric figures while creating
the glyphs.
As discussed previously in Dalai, Martini, and Perondi (2019), we refer to the
rhetorical figures in the metalogic area (the tropes of the classical rhetoric)
which are related to the signified. Terefore, since this area of the rhetoric
is related to the contents, it is independent from the form and the modes of
expression (Bonfantini, 2000).
However, the usage of these figures has to follow some criteria for regular com-
position. In particular, we focused (Dalai, Martini, and Perondi, 2019) on the
visual synecdoche (i.e. representing a part to signify the whole), and the visual
metonymy (i.e. to represent the cause for the effect or the effect for the cause),
especially for the representation of liquids or for objects which do not have a
well-defined and recognisable shape otherwise (Fig. 19, “to drink”).
For example, the pictograms of the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games can be seen
as a visual synecdoche (a ball stands for “soccer”, a shoe with cleats stands for
“athletics”) (Fig. 22), while the icon of the basket on the macOS interface can
be seen as a visual metonymy (the tool for the effect).
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Fig. 20. Agglutinative properties of Aztec
writing. Codex Mendoza f20 r. detail “Te-
petlacalco”, with its transliteration. Image
retrieved from Perondi and Perri, 2018.
Fig. 21. PASS glyphs for “fare” (”to do”) and
“mangiare” (“to eat”).
Fig. 22. Icons of the Olympic games in
Mexico 1968, by Lance Wyman.
Fig. 23. PASS glyphs “juice” and “biscuit”.
Showing a visual metonymy (apple juice)
and a visual synecdoche (biscuit).
We argue that we can evaluate the following issues through the application of
a system of glyphs for AAC:
1. Does a morpheme-by-morpheme transposition show evident and
significative advantages for people with ASD compared to the usage
of the Latin alphabet?
2. By using the valency model for grammar (Sabatini, Camodeca and
De Santis, 2011) as a model for learning, the reader/writer focuses
on the lexical selection without first having to think at the
morphological level. Can it be beneficial to apply a model like the
valency model when the teacher/therapist decides to use a visual
system for conducting rehabilitation with people with CCN?
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7. The pictographic aspects of glyph design, the study of
pictographic composition
Te process we follow in the development of PASS starts by basing the
drawing of the glyphs upon well-defined and established constructs emerging
in the reference literature. Tis allows the detection of relevant variables to
investigate aferwards through empirical research, by following an iterative
process of design, testing and revisions.
7.1. The graphic implications of designing a system of glyphs
In this section, we discuss the modalities for controlling the construction of
the glyphs.
Starting from the definition of Synsemia: “Synsemia means the deliberate and
conscious disposition of elements of writing in the space in order to commu-
nicate, in a reasonably unambiguous way and in a regular manner, through
the spatial articulation and the other visual variables. Tese regularities (Gre-
imas and Courtés, 2007) can be valid only for a specific text (but consistent,
rigorous and interpreted without the aid of the author) or defined by specific
paterns and setled habits of use” (Perondi and Romei, 2010).
From this standpoint, by taking advantage of regularity the reader triggers the
inductive reasoning that allows them to disambiguate the elements that com-
pose the text (Perri, 1994). At the same time, the writer atributes meaning to
graphical elements by using them consistently in the same artefact or corpus.
Te regularity is, in our hypothesis, the guiding principle and ultimate goal in
designing new glyphs in an AAC system.
Te definition of “regularity”, also meaning “graphic consistency”, includes
the definition of visual variables (Bertin, 2011), distinctive features, and refe-
rence frames (Perondi, 2012; Bonora et al., 2019) that we used for the design
of the system of glyphs.
Te graphical definition of the constituent traits of a glyph, as much as the
pertinent ones and the range of variation of their number (Dalai, Martini, and
Perondi, 2019), is a fundamental graphic composition element for a glyph
composition system.
In the PASS system, we kept the range of the number of constituent traits
(Migliore, 2007; Polidoro, 2008; Dalai, Martini and Perondi, 2019) relatively
narrow, in order to avoid producing glyphs that are “too fat” or “too thin”.
Planning to use a range of constituent traits that is too broad can make diffe-
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rences in the visual aspects of the glyphs in the system more evident, which
can generate a visual hierarchy that is unwanted and out of the control of the
Another salient design issue is that printing problems arise with an excessive
number of features: the reproducibility of litle graphical details becomes
more unpredictable, depending on the printing apparatus.
Terefore, the definition and the design of the constituent traits and per-
tinent traits are critical steps in the design process of a glyph system (for
example, a man who is depicted in a glyph should be recognisable even if he
is drawn in different positions and with different features without varying its
visual weight).
Fig. 24. PASS constituent traits.
Te set of criteria for the visual composition of the glyphs is the synsemic
quatrefoil. Earlier, we described (Bonora et al., 2017; Dalai, Martini, and
Perondi, 2019) in detail the characteristics and the theoretical bases of each
component of the quatrefoil.
1. Atribution of visual variables, each set of visual variables
matches a semantic group.
2. Definition of elements and aggregates
3. Description of hierarchy and hierarchical distance
4. Establishment of reference frames
7.2. Attribution of visual variables (Bertin, 2011, p. 42)
Te definition of the visual variables for each glyph is the crucial step in the
design process of PASS.
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7.2.1. Orientation
In a first phase, in order to have control over the amount of distinctive featu-
res available and to impose a consistent orientation in the glyphs, we chose to
use only two-dimensional drawings (using neither perspective nor axonome-
try). However, this position appears to be too restrictive.
Nevertheless, we kept the usage of the 2D-3D orientation variable coherent
within semantic and functional groups.
Frontal, lateral and three-quarter view
In PASS, for example, every glyph depicting a human being has only two
possible two-dimensional views: frontal and lateral (Fig. 25).
A three-quarter view is allowed only when it is impossible to do otherwise.
Te effectiveness of this design choice is under investigation.
Orientation is also a critical variable for the entaxis of the glyphs, in the com-
position of some constructs, such as pronouns.
Fig. 25. PASS glyph for “essi” (“they”).
7.2.2. Value
Te Value (tone) is a visual variable which has different uses in some AAC
glyph systems. For example, in PCS it is used to simulate colour fill, to highli-
ght some drawing elements or to simulate perspective (Fig. 26).
Greyscale is not used in PASS in order to increase the figure-ground contrast
(Peeters and De Clercq, 2012).
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Furthermore, avoiding the use of value will prevent all printing issues, since
it could be difficult to control greyscale rendering on different printers and
Black areas are used for generalising elements.
7.2.3. Texture (or grain)
Tere is evidence against the use of dense textures, since they could cau-
se perception problems and an information overload (Bogdashina, 2011)
among the users of AAC glyph systems.
In our analysis, we did not find evidence of regularity in the use of textures in
For these reasons, we limited the use of textures and when we used them (Fig.
27) we drew the lowest possible number of repetitions of similar modules.
7.2.4. Shape
WLS, PCS and ARSAAC lack an evident definition of a consistent graphic
style. Blissymbolics shows well defined parameters for the composition and
design of glyphs, which support the language without compromising the
graphic consistency.
We decided to base PASS on “shape” regularities which aim to preserve the
homogeneity in the disambiguation process of the glyphs. One of the essen-
tial elements for drawing the shapes is the construction of the glyphs within a
grid (Fig. 28) and using modular elements.
7.2.5. Size
In PASS, the variable size has two different functions: (1) the size of the
components of a glyph, including the thickness of the strokes; (2) the size of
the syntactic markers, inflectional traits and grammatical words in the entaxis
of an agglutinative glyph.
1. One of the problems that may arise when using unregulated line
thickness is that some of the glyphs may become unreproducible at
small sizes. Moreover, lack of regulation on the size of the
components allows the creation of glyphs which present unbalanced
visual weight or showcase an excessively high richness of detail.
Moreover, by not carefully controlling the thickness ratio of the
strokes, this visual variable can actively cause the reader to form
semantic hierarchies which were not planned by design. For these
reasons, we have decided to reduce the stroke ratio number down
to two at present.
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Fig. 26. Different glyphs from the PCS
catalogue, showing different usages for the
visual variable “value”.
Fig. 27. PASS glyph for “giraffa” (”giraffe”).
Fig. 28. PASS construction grid.
Fig. 29. PASS glyphs “Luca’s nose” (the nose
of a specific man) showing different line
thicknesses (pointer, outline, details).
Fig 30. PASS glyph “Luca is a male” with
and without construction grid.
Te primary ratio defines the outline or the main stroke of theglyph;
the secondary ratio (half of the primary one) describes some
elements inside the glyph or necessary details for the
disambiguation of the glyph.
In the drawing of the pointer used to highlight a specific part of
a glyph, e.g. the nose (Fig. 29), the pointer stroke thickness is twice
the primary one.
2. Te size of the glyphs in an agglutinate glyph has grammatical,
semantic and entactic value.
For example, in an agglutinate glyph of name or adjective type,
the name occupies nearly the full extent of the construction grid,
while the adjective occupies just the nine units in the top-right of
the grid. Tis feature also impacts the definition of the hierarchical
distance between the elements of the glyph (see Section 5.1.3).
7.2.6. Colour
Te use of colour in AAC glyphs poses several problems: the higher the
number of colours, the more difficult it is for the reader to discern and name
them ( Johnson, 2014, p. 93; Miller, 1956); the perception of colour is sub-
jective and never unequivocal ( Johnson, 2014, pp. 37-47); a large part of the
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population has a colour vision deficiency ( Johnson, 2014, pp. 37-47; Sharpe
et al., 1999).
Ofen picture books or AAC communication boards (Costantino, 2011, pp. 69-
75, 160) show coloured glyphs. However, the end users of the PASS system have
particular needs: ASD is ofen combined with perception disorders (Bogdashi-
na, 2011), hence a large amount of colours could cause a cognitive overload. In
addition, there is documentation (Peeters and De Clercq, 2012) discussing the
possibility that subjects with ASD may interpret colours in the environment by
associating them with other concepts in a rigid and univocal way.
For these reasons, we think that it is not possible to control the colour per-
ception of PASS users.
Other factors impacting the usage of colours are the saturation and the
figure-ground colour contrast. In order to obtain optimal results, it would be
necessary to compute the level of brightness of the paper used, the printed
colour, and the print media, for which there is not currently an internationa-
lly shared standard to our knowledge. On the other hand, there is a shared
standard for colour contrast measurements on digital devices (W3C, 2016).
Due to all these technical issues, it is evident that the reproduction of a colour
is not always feasible in family and therapeutic contexts.
Due to all the listed reasons, the PASS system limits the usage of colour as
much as possible (it is used when it can serve a strictly semantic function, Fig.
31). However, it leaves the user the freedom to personalise specific glyphs.
In the Aztec writing system, textures were used when text was monochroma-
tic (De Finis et al., 1996), but the textures have a theoretical drawback as we
highlighted in Section 3 of this chapter.
To this date, we have not found alternatives to the limited usage of colours
and textures.
Fig 31. PASS glyphs “Luca ha i capelli rossi”
(“Luca has red hair”) and “l’uomo ha i
capelli rossi” (“the man has red hair”).
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7.2.7. Position
Position is a crucial variable for the entactic (Vaillant, 1999) composition in
PASS, due to the fact that all the glyphs are composed of graphic elements on
a grid.
Te entactic construction process is driven firstly by iconic depiction, and
secondly by the arrangement of the elements by conventional means, which
determines the position of grammatical morphemes (e.g. adjectives or other
indicators) (see Fig. 20).
PASS uses pointers/indexes (also displayed in Fig. 29) when the depiction of
an object which has been deprived of the surrounding context shows too few
details. Te pointer function and presentation (Fig. 32) relies on the relation
of physical contiguity (position) with the object which is represented.
7.3. Hierarchy and hierarchical distance
Hierarchy and hierarchical distance (Bonora et al., 2017) between the basic
elements in PASS is exploited in order to highlight the glyph structure and
the function of every element (indicators, generalising element, grammatical
morphemes when needed, actors when needed) (Fig. 33).
8. Future developments. A methodology for the development of
glyph systems for clinical habilitation practices.
Tis article presents a methodology—which is grounded in linguistics and
graphic design theories—for the development of a glyph system. Te peculiar
trait of the following methodology is allowing for the measurement of the
effectiveness of the glyph design and composition choices in the specific con-
text of use of clinical habilitation of children with developmental conditions.
Tis goal can be achieved by structuring a set of composition rules for the de-
sign of the glyphs. Trough the systematic application of these rules, it would
be possible for designers to develop new glyphs which are consistent in their
relationship with the semantics they aim to convey, and in their presentation
as a cohesive series. Te objective of this methodology is to provide caregi-
vers and clinicians with self-production tools for Augmentative and Alternati-
ve Communication (AAC) practices.
Tis work does not provide empirical scientific validation for a clinical rehabi-
litation instrument, but it proposes a structured methodology for the develo-
pment and analysis of AAC aiding instruments, which relates graphic design,
linguistics and semiotics from a scientific experimentation perspective.
Inmaterial 08. Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa, Marta Panunzi,
Luciano Perondi, Cecilia Rubertelli.
Artículo original
Fig. 32. Pointer usage in PASS, identifying a tongue.
Fig. 33. PASS glyphs “happy man”.
We have conducted an initial experiment on the clinical usage of PASS on
a digital device. Te experiment was conducted by Marta Panunzi in 2016,
with the supervision of Luciano Perondi and Simone Minichiello (a speech
therapist specialising in ASD who works in a private health centre in Ferrara,
Italy). Tis preliminary experiment has not been discussed in this paper.
Recently, we have been working to redefine the theoretical basis of the
construction of a system of glyphs, from the graphical and linguistic points of
view, which is reported in this paper.
We advocate that designers can develop strictly structured glyph systems by
deepening their knowledge of rehabilitative clinical practices and the applica-
tion of linguistics principles. Tese systems can then become flexible enough
to be used in a variety of clinical setings.
Te consistency of composition and visual presentation of a glyph system
allows designers to expand the pool of available glyphs and therefore ac-
commodate the ever-changing needs of clinical practices. We affirm that the
strictness of the set of composition rules for glyphs contrasts positively with
the flexibility needed in clinical setings, and that this principle should be
followed by designers while developing communication artefacts for clinical
Te PASS system is therefore currently undergoing a redesign process, embra-
cing both its synsemic composition system and its digital application.
From the perspective of involving end users in the development of PASS, we are
planning to carry on the research on PASS by maintaining a clinical approach.
Inmaterial 08. PASS: Picture Augmentative Synsemic System.
A new system for AAC habilitative practices, theoretical
Artículo original
Te clinical personnel, who were part of the research team during this first
testing phase, support the hypothesis that the response of the end-users of
PASS will always be extremely variable and unpredictable. Tis is due to the
high subjectivity of ASD. If, during further testing, some consistency in the
end-user responses is discovered, then the research team will proceed with
more quantitative research.
We thank Ruth Varela, from Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de A
Coruña, and Linda Zennaro, from Università Iuav di Venezia, for their pre-
cious help with the translation in Spanish.
Te present article draws upon a previously unpublished conference proce-
eding from the Face Forward International Typography Conference, Dublin
Institute of Technology, 2015. Te present article shows a revised, expanded,
updated and improved dissertation on some of the topics partially covered
in the previous proceeding, for which few similarities can currently be read.
However, the contents of this article are inherently original, since the pre-
vious proceeding has not been published at present.
— AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication
— Blissymbolics: Te name of a glyph system derived from the name of its
original developer, Charles K. Bliss
— ARSAAC: ARgonés Sistemas Aumentativos y Alternativos de
— ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorders
— CCN: Complex Communication Needs
— CP: Complementiser Phrase
— IP: Inflectional Phrase
— PASS: Picture Augmentative Synsemic System
— PCS: Picture Communication Symbols
— VP: Verb Phrase
— WLS: Widgit Literacy Symbols
Inmaterial 08. Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa, Marta Panunzi,
Luciano Perondi, Cecilia Rubertelli.
Artículo original
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A new system for AAC habilitative practices, theoretical
Artículo original
Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa
Alpaca Società Cooperativa
via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 5, 44121 Ferrara FE (Italy),
Marta Panunzi
Freelance linguist
00100 Roma (Italy),
Luciano Perondi
3,* Dipartimento di Culture del Progeto,
Università IUAV di Venezia, Santa Croce 191 Tolentini,
30135 Venezia VE (Italy); Tel.:+39-388-1697785
Cecilia Rubertelli
Freelance linguist
10121 Torino TO (Italy),
Inmaterial 08. Giulia Bonora, Giampiero Dalai, Daniele De Rosa, Marta Panunzi,
Luciano Perondi, Cecilia Rubertelli.
Artículo original