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Introducing Bliss
About Blissymbolics
Why Bliss?
People Using Bliss
Lee and Elaine

More Information About Bliss
Bliss Workshop
Articles on Bliss
Research on Bliss
Bliss Language Development
The fundamental rules of Blissymbolics (as a PDF file)

About Blissymbolics

Blissymbolics is a communication system originally developed by Charles K. Bliss (1897-1985) for the purpose of international communication. It was first applied to the communication of children with physical disabilities by an interdisciplinary team led by Shirley McNaughton at the Ontario Crippled Children's Centre (now the Bloorview MacMillan Centre) in 1971.

The Blissymbolics language is currently composed of over 2,000 graphic symbols. Each symbol or Bliss-word is composed of one or more Bliss-characters which can be combined and recombined in endless ways to create new symbols. Bliss-words can be sequenced to form many types of sentences and express many grammatical capabilities. Simple shapes are used to keep the symbols easy and fast to draw and because both abstract and concrete levels of concepts can be represented, Blissymbolics can be applied both to children and adults and are appropriate for persons with a wide range of intellectual abilities.

Blissymbols:

  • are quick and easy to learn
  • can be used at a pre-reading level but are sophisticated enough to allow expression of thoughts, ideas and feelings
  • can be expanded as ability grows

Some symbols are pictographs - they look like the things they represent:

house wheel sun electric
blissymbol for "house" blissymbol for "wheel" blissymbol for "sun" blissymbol for "electric"

Some symbols are ideographs - they represent ideas:

mind giving knowledge
blissymbol for "mind" blissymbol for "giving" blissymbol for "knowledge"

Blissymbols can be combined to create additional meanings:

wheel and sun equals machine
blissymbol for "wheel" blissymbol for "sun" blissymbol for "machine"

For more details on how the Blissymbolics communication system works, please visit our Bliss Workshop.

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Why Bliss?

The system of Blissymbolics has several features which makes it a preferred means of communication for nonspeaking persons, for persons with limited literacy skills, and for persons who are ready and eager to use Bliss to communicate with persons whatever their language background may be.

Blissymbolics is a language with a wide vocabulary, a grammar which allows for sentences in past, future and present tenses, and markers for possession, plurality, questions and commands.

There are many strategies within the system of Blissymbolics which enable the user to create new symbols. It is a totally generative system with each new symbol interpretable by the receiver through analysing the component parts. In the same way that letters represent sounds that are used to create words in print, meaning-based Bliss units are sequenced to define the meaning of each compound symbol. Since there are a limited number of elements, called key symbols, the learner need only master the meaning of approximately 100 elements.

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People Using Bliss

The number of persons currently using Blissymbols has been very difficult to determine. The system is used with persons with severe speech and physical impairments (SSPI) in over 33 countries and Blissymbol materials have been translated into more than 15 languages. The peak of Blissymbol training occurred in 1982 and at that time, a total of 8,000 instructors had attended workshops worldwide. Each of those instructors would have interacted with a number of students, but as well, the individual Blissymbol user would have benefited from the instruction of several instructors.

There is no single definitive study providing statistics regarding the incidence of individuals needing alternative forms of communication due to a severe speech impairment. Until such a study is undertaken, we can only reference several demographic studies conducted in various regions over the past twenty years. The results of these studies would indicate that the incidence of individuals who have required native communication lies between .15% and .60% of the total school population. Of this group, it has been estimated from a study involving individuals with SSPI in Ontario, that 41% of those using communication boards have used Blissymbols. Some of these individuals will have moved to the use of spelling and word systems.

While the numbers of persons who use Blissymbols as their alternative form of communication is not large, they are spread all around the world and benefit greatly from the Internet. As well as having their lives enriched, they are in a position to assist speaking persons through demonstrating that Internet communication can take place between persons of different language backgrounds.


More Information About Bliss
Bliss Workshop
Articles on Bliss
Research on Bliss
Bliss Language Development

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