Grapholinguistics in the 21st century—From graphemes to knowledge

G21C (Grapholinguistics in the 21st Century) is a biennial conference bringing together disciplines concerned with grapholinguistics and more generally the study writing systems and their representation in written communication. The conference aims to reflect on the current state of research in the area, and on the role that writing and writing systems play in neighboring disciplines like computer science and information technology, communication, typography, psychology, and pedagogy. In particular it aims to study the effect of the growing importance of Unicode with regard to the future of reading and writing in human societies. Reflecting the richness of perspectives on writing systems, G21C is actively interdisciplinary, and welcomes proposals from researchers from the fields of computer science and information technology, linguistics, communication, pedagogy, psychology, history, and the social sciences.

G21C aims to create a space for the discussion of the range of approaches to writing systems, and specifically to bridge approaches in linguistics, informatics, and other fields. It will provide a forum for explorations in terminology, methodology, and theoretical approaches relating to the delineation of an emerging interdisciplinary area of research that intersects with intense activity in practical implementations of writing systems.

The Grapholinguistics in the 21st Century 2020 Conference is kindly endorsed by ACL (Association for Computational Linguistics) and by ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale).

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The first edition of G21C was held in Brest, France, on June 14-15, 2018.

Keynote Speakers

Photo of Jessica Coon Photo of Martin Neef
Jessica Coon Martin Neef

Jessica Coon is Associate Professor of Linguistics at McGill University and holds the Canada Research Chair in Syntax and Indigenous Languages. Her research focuses on topics in syntactic theory, with a special focus on languages of the Mayan family. In addition to theoretical work, she is involved in collaborative language documentation and revitalization projects with Indigenous communities in Canada and Latin America.

In the summer of 2015 she worked as the scientific consultant for the film Arrival, which stars Amy Adams as a linguistic fieldworker who is recruited by the military to decipher the language of the recently-arrived Heptapods. Since the film, Dr. Coon has helped create a public dialogue about linguistics and endangered languages through interviews and written work in outlets including Wired Magazine, The Washington Post, and CBC's The Current

Martin Neef is professor for German Linguistics at the TU Braunschweig (Germany). His research focuses on theories of the language system (phonology, morphology, syntax) and the writing system as well as on the general conceptions of linguistic theories in the paradigm of Linguistic Realism. In his habilitation thesis Die Graphematik des Deutschen (published in 2005), he developed an original approach to analyze the relation of written forms to spoken forms, an approach he further developed in the project Die Systematische Orthographie des Deutschen (2011-2014; funded by the German National Science Foundation DFG) to capture the direction from spoken forms to written forms as well. He is author of four monographs and 45 research articles and co-editor of 12 volumes. Furthermore, he is co-editor (together with Said Sahel and Rüdiger Weingarten) of the terminological lexicon Schriftlinguistik which is currently in preparation (parts of it are already electronically pre-published). From 2008 to 2015, he was General Editor of the journal Written Language and Literacy.

The Linguistics of Arrival: What an alien writing system can teach us about human language

If aliens arrived, could we communicate with them? How would we do it? What are the tools linguists use to decipher unknown languages? How different can languages be from one another? Do these differences have bigger consequences for how we see the world? And how might difference in writing systems reflect or influence cognition?

The 2016 science-fiction film Arrival—based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang—touches on these and other real questions in the field of linguistics. In Arrival, linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks is recruited by the military to translate the language of the newly-arrived heptapods. Her job is to find the answer to the question everyone wants to know: why are they here? Language is a crucial piece of the answer, but the answer isn’t simple. Heptapods, it turns out, have two completely distinct languages: a spoken language (Heptapod A), and a written language (Heptapod B). This talk explores these themes in Arrival, and discusses what the fictious Heptapod B can tell us about human language.

What is it that ends with a full stop?

In the analysis of written language, the distribution of the punctuation marks full stop, question mark, and exclamation mark is usually explained with reference to the concept of sentence. Consequently, these marks are termed Satzschlusszeichen (‘sentence closing mark’) in German linguistics. However, if the term sentence is understood as in syntax, e.g. as a phrase with a finite verb as its head, it turns out that (in English, as an example) while in some cases the marks in question actually follow what can be regarded as a sentence (Where are you now?), in many other cases the marks follow less than one sentence (Here!) or more than one sentence (I am here and you are there.) or they are interspersed into a sentence (Stop! Being! Stupid!). In order to arrive at a proper analysis of such data, it is necessary to distinguish between two different structural concepts, the sentence as a strictly syntactic notion on the one hand and a different concept belonging to the field of grapholinguistics on the other hand. There are numerous suggestions how to conceive of this other concept. In the approach to be presented, it is termed written utterance and regarded as what a writer conceives of as a coherent thought. What is important is that the concepts of sentence and written utterance are completely independent of each other as they belong to different fields of linguistics. A grapholinguistic analysis has to explain the wellformedness conditions of written utterances. In the grapholinguistic model that is used as background for this analysis, the language system is regarded as being part of the writing system so that analyses of written forms can make use of all concepts that are established for the analysis of the language system. This model gives a peculiar answer to the pertinent question of the relation of written language to spoken language.

Main topics of interest

We welcome proposals from all disciplines concerned with the study of written language, writing systems, and their implementation in information systems. Examples of topics include, but are not limited to:

Epistemology of grapholinguistics: history, onomastics, topics, interaction with other disciplines
Foundations of grapholinguistics, graphemics and graphetics
History and typology of writing systems, comparative graphemics/graphetics
Semiotics of writing and of writing systems
Computational/formal graphemics/graphetics
Grapholinguistic theory of Unicode encoding
Orthographic reforms, theory and practice
Graphemics/graphetics and multiliteracy
Writing and art / Writing in art
Typographemics, typographetics
Texting, latinization, new forms of written language
ASCII art, emoticons and other pictorial uses of graphemes
The future of writing, of writing systems and styles
Graphemics/graphetics and font technologies
Graphemics/graphetics in steganography and computer security (phishing, typosquatting, etc.)
Graphemics/graphetics in art, media and communication / Aesthetics of writing in the digital era
Graphemics/graphetics in experimental psychology and cognitive sciences
Teaching graphemics/graphetics, the five Ws and one H
Grapholinguistic applications in natural language processing and text mining
Grapholinguistic applications in optical character recognition and information technologies

Program Committee

Gabriel Altmann, formerly at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
Jannis Androutsopoulos, Universität Hamburg, Germany
Vlad Atanasiu, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland
Kristian Berg, Universität Oldenburg, Germany
Peter Bilak, Typothèque, The Hague, The Netherlands
Florian Coulmas, Universität Duisburg, Germany
Jacques David, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, France
Mark Davis, Unicode Consortium & Google Inc., Switzerland
Joseph Dichy, Université Lumière Lyon 2, France
Christa Dürscheid, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
Martin Dürst, Aoyama Gakuin University & W3C, Sagamihara, Japan
Caroline Fontaine, IMT Atlantique & CNRS Lab-STICC, Brest, France
Claude Gruaz, formerly at CNRS, Rouen, France
Yannis Haralambous, IMT Atlantique & CNRS Lab-STICC, Brest, France
Keisuke Honda, Imperial College London and University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Shu-Kai Hsieh, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
Dejan Ivković, York University, Toronto, Canada
Jean-Pierre Jaffré, formerly at Université Paris 5, France
Terry Joyce, Tama University, Fujisawa, Kanagawa, Japan
George Kiraz, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA
Marc W. Küster, Office de traduction de l'Union européenne, Luxembourg
Frédéric Landragin, CNRS - Laboratoire Lattice, Montrouge, France
Christophe Lemey, URCI Mental Health Department, Brest Medical University Hospital, Brest, France
Gerry Leonidas, University of Reading, United Kingdom
Kamal Mansour, Monotype Imaging, Los Altos, California, USA
Klimis Mastoridis, University of Nicosia, Cyprus
Dimitrios Meletis, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria
Tomi S. Melka, formerly at Parkland College, Champaign, Illinois, USA
Ghassan Mourad, Université Libanaise, Beirut, Lebanon
James Myers, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan
Panchanan Mohanty, University of Hyderabad, India
Lisa Moore, Unicode Consortium, USA
Shigeki Moro, Hanazono University, Kyoto, Japan
J.R. Osborn, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA
Jean-Christophe Pellat, Université de Strasbourg, France
Miquel Peyró, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain
Claude Puech, Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle, Paris, France
François Rastier, formerly at CNRS, Paris, France
Cornelia Schindelin, Universität Mainz, Germany
Virach Sornlertlamvanich, SIIT, Thammasat University, Phatum Thani, Thailand
Jürgen Spitzmüller, Universität Wien, Vienna, Austria
Susanne Wehde, MRC Managing Research GmbH, München, Germany
Kenneth Whistler, Unicode Consortium, Berkeley, California, USA


The conference will be held in the Auditorium Marie Curie, CNRS - Délégation Paris Michel-Ange, 3 rue Michel-Ange, nearby Métro Station Michel-Ange Auteuil.

Important dates

Submission deadline (extended): January 20, 2020
Notification of acceptance: March 30, 2020
Conference: June 17-19, 2020

We invite you to submit original contributions in the form of extended abstracts (in the form of a PDF file, the text body of which not exceeding 1,000 words, with no limit on illustrations and references), written in English and anonymized. All submissions will be peer-reviewed on the basis of relevance, originality, importance and clarity.

To submit please use the EasyChair site:

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The Proceedings will be published by Fluxus Editions publishing house (Brest, France) as a volume of the Grapholinguistics and Its Applications Series. Articles in the Proceedings can be 12-30 pages long (LaTeX article style) and can be written in English, French or German.

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