MA Graphic Communication Design, Runner Up, 2019
Xiaoying’s project explores the concepts of prescriptivism and descriptivism in linguistic theory from the perspective of a graphic designer.
My project explores the concepts of prescriptivism and descriptivism in linguistic theory in the perspective of a graphic designer. My work is a set of moving images of words from the alphabet. This is an ongoing project and presently, I have completed the letters A, B, C, and P (arrow, button, chair and pen). Each of the moving images is an experiment in destabilising, stretching, and interrogating the boundaries of day-to-day objects created by their Oxford English Dictionary definitions, in order to deal with the ambiguity and complexity in words that are either relatively static or ‘clear’.
Language is the beginning of learning about the world. It categorises everything we see and understand and translates them into definitions and labels them with words. Therefore, in my initial exploration, I believed that the dictionary has always been the authority on language. However, the world is constantly changing. The real world possesses more complexity and ambiguity than what a dictionary provides through its definitions. I had considered dictionary definitions as representing the majority of items that belong to a categorical system. My work plays with what is on the boundaries of a word as well as the items that cross those boundaries.
In further research, I discovered a debate involving linguistic theory: prescriptivist and descriptivist. Prescriptivism argues that people should follow all instructions and rules written in books. Descriptivism describes the language and its use during a certain time period. However, descriptivism does not require language to be used in a certain way. Even though people deem the dictionary as being correct, in reality, the Oxford English Dictionary is not prescriptive, but descriptive. It adds words every year, updates its definitions and only presents what is deemed as accurate.
This conceptual pairing can be understood in a linguistic perspective and also in a broader sense. The subject itself is also a projection of my definition in graphic communication design as a discipline. The label of graphic communication design includes not only book binding and poster making etc, but also animations, sound design and any kind of possibilities. After years of learning graphic design before my MA course, I now have the opportunity to define graphic design myself, which makes this project more of a self-discovery.
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