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Silenc [ciid.dk] is a tangible visualization designed by interaction design students Manas Karambelkar, Momo Miyazaki and Kenneth A. Robertsen that highlights the silent letters that occur in the Danish, English and French languages. A silent letter is a letter that appears in a particular word, but does not correspond to any sound in the word's pronunciation.

The visualization is rather subtle: all silent letters are set in red text. When viewed with a red light filter, these letters disappear, leaving only the pronounced text. A selection of translated works by Hans Christian Andersen is used as the basis of comparison between the different languages.

The work consists of different depictions: one is a full book, in which silent letters are marked up in red yet remain in their original position. In another iteration, silent letters are separated from the pronounced text and exhibited on their own pages in the back of the book, the prevalence of silent letters is clearly evident.

A video documentation is avaliable below. Additional Images of the project are available here.




The photograph at the top has the word 'through' (just to the right of center of the left-half of the image) with the o and the h in red and the rest in black... implying the *g* is actually pronounced.

How the heck are they pronouncing it? thrug?

Wed 27 Jun 2012 at 8:04 AM

there's actually a lot of mistakes in the french

Wed 27 Jun 2012 at 10:06 AM

It may be a nice design practice, but from the linguistic/phonetic point of view it's completely useless. I can't judge the Danish text since I don't speak the language. In the French and the English texts, however, there are many mistakes. The matter of what you call "silent letters" is way more complicated and it doesn't make any sense when you simplify it like this.

Wed 27 Jun 2012 at 11:14 AM

Thanks for your feedback, everyone!

Silenc was just an exploration and interpretation of what letters "sound silent" to us. The code that we developed in three days is not without faults - we understand that sometimes these silent letters are not superfluous and play complicated roles in changing the perception and pronunciation of words.

There is a lot of room for improvement in the 'rules' we created. Silenc was not meant as a tool to replace language learning in any way. However, we feel that what we have produced now successfully communicates the idea of comparing silent letters in different languages.

For more details: http://ciid.dk/education/portfolio/idp12/courses/data-visualisation/projects/silenc/

Momo, Manas and Kenneth

Wed 27 Jun 2012 at 2:06 PM

Very good idea! Unfortunately, the mistakes are far too many in the texts, and that affects the relevance of your work. You're just highlighting too many letter that are in no way silent, not even for a norwegian ear. For example in french, you suppress all the nasal sounds like on, un, in, en, an, or the "o" in the sound "ou", totally different from "u".
Brilliant idea, still.

Wed 27 Jun 2012 at 10:26 PM
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