What is Universal Picture Language?

Universal Picture Language is a visual language.  

It uses simple pictures to represent both concrete and abstract ideas. UPL can be learned in just a few minutes. Although very simple, it is also quit powerful. You can make complicated sentences in UPL.

The different types of UPL symbols are presented below. Why not scroll down slowly to see if you can guess the meaning of a symbol before you uncover its English translation?

Simple Symbols

Simple symbols are just plain old ordinary pictures:


house





guitar





helicopter





me





you


Context Symbols

The next type of symbol is called a "context symbol". In a context symbol, part of a picture is removed and then repeated. The part that is repeated is the meaning of the symbol. An arrow always points toward the part of the symbol that represents the meaning of the symbol:


eyes





eyes





nose





nose





hamburger





sky





shade





mother


The "big picture" is called the context picture, and the little picture that is repeated is called the meaning pictureSometimes the meaning picture doesn't explicitly appear in the context picture. In this case we have to use a little imagination to figure out how the meaning picture could have been removed from the context picture. Just remember that the arrow always points to the picture that represents the meaning of the symbol:


milk





ink


Contrast Symbols

The next type of symbol is called a contrast symbol. A contrast symbol has two pictures. One picture represents what the meaning is and the other picture represents what it isn't. A pointer points to the picture that represents what the meaning is:



smiling, happy





upside down





curved (not straight)





far (not near)





alive





free





accurate





fitting, appropriate



If we leave the pointer out of a contrast symbol then we get the abstract quality represented by the difference between the two pictures:



degree or amount of curvature, curviness





high





height, altitude





orderly (not in disarray)





degree or amount of order, orderliness



Transformation Symbols

Transformation symbols represent actions, or verbs. There are two pictures in a transformation symbol. One picture represents the beginning of the action and the other picture represents the end of the action. We are to imagine how one picture is transformed into the other. An arrow hovers above the two pictures. The picture beneath the tail of the arrow represents the beginning of the action and the picture beneath the head of the arrow represents the ending of the action:



to grow taller





to rise, to ascend





to build





to strengthen, to become stronger


What about verb tense? We can put a little red arrow inside the big arrow to indicate which part of the action is presently happening. If the little red arrow appears at the tail of the big arrow over the picture that represents the beginning of the action, then the action is just beginning. This means the action will happen at sometime in the future:


will go away, will get further away

If the little red arrow is in the middle of the big arrow, between the two pictures, then the action is in progress at the present time:

is building

If the little red arrow is at the head of the big arrow, over the picture that represents the ending of the action, then the action has already completed. This means the action happened at some time in the past:


grew up

Sometimes the two pictures in a transformation symbol might be more or less alike. In this case we can just use one picture:


to speak, to say


Conclusion

By now you are pretty familiar with Universal Picture Language. There are other types of symbols, but you've seen the most important ones on this page.

Universal Picture Language was invented by Wally Flint. That's me, the author of this web site. My full name is William Wallace Flint III. My intention was to create a language that could be used as an alternative tool for people with language disabilities and handicaps. Unfortunately, UPL seems to be too complicated for this application. But I hope this web site can provide some ideas and inspiration to other language developers.

If you want to see some more UPL, why not try and read A Story in UPL?

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