Bliss symbols

a meaning-oriented and not sound-oriented symbol system for the physically handicapped

After the Australian linguist Charles Kasiel Bliss (1897-1985).

Bliss was born Karl Blitz in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire on the border with Russia. He was the eldest of four children of a poor electrician.

In 1922 he graduated from the Vienna Technical University and was able to work as a chemical engineer in a factory of electrical appliances.

As a Jew, shortly after the Nazi invasion of Austria on March 12, 1938, he was interned in the Dachau concentration camp, later in Buchenwald.

Through the efforts of his wife Claire, he was released on the condition that he emigrate to England. In late 1940, Karl and Claire each reached Shanghai, where Karl's cousin lived, by many detours. But even there they were not safe from fascism, it turned out.

The Japanese invaded Shanghai and concentrated the Jews in the Hongkew sector, where living conditions were abysmal. There Karl found that all Chinese could read the same newspaper, although they often could not understand each other.

Slowly the plan matured in him to develop an international drawing language, a language that could not easily be corrupted like the great German language of culture.

In mid-1946, the couple arrived in Sydney, Australia. Karl Blitz, now known as Charles Bliss, was not heard with his ideas. He had to work as a manual laborer to stay alive.

In his spare time he continued to work on the system which he published in his book International Semantography in 1949. Between 1949 and 1953, Claire sent more than six thousand letters around the world, to universities and scholars, promoting her husband's system.

The response was meager. Claire died in 1961 and it seemed like Charles Bliss had lost his battle. Nevertheless, in 1965 he published a second edition of his book.

In 1971 it suddenly turned out that a center for disabled children in Canada was using his drawing language. Children who could not speak, for example, only had to point to Charles' signs to make themselves understood. Bliss was delighted.

His language, which he had always envisaged as one that would bring peace to the world, that should be so simple that even children could use it, apart from all spoken languages, had finally found a use.

In 1975, he awarded an exclusive worldwide license to the Blissymbolics Communication Foundation in Canada. He died in 1982.

In 1985, computer specialists in Ghent succeeded in linking a voice to the signs, so that speech-impaired people who cannot speak, read or write can still raise their voices.

In the Netherlands, the Bliss system was introduced in 1973 by Caroline Bockweg and Els Koerselman, speech therapists at the rehabilitation center De Trappenberg in Huizen.