Typography is a ubiquitous but poorly understood aspect of language. Its interpretation is not well understood but seems to combine the same kind of logical and pragmatic reasoning that we use for prose with an extra perceptual dimension. The spatial metaphors that are so common in ordinary language can thus be realized in its written shape.
Paralanguage in speech is relatively natural, acquired through social interaction with others. It is also informal and its conventions can change even during a single conversation interaction. Typography, however -- paralanguage in text -- has to be more formal, deliberate, and consistent. Furthermore, typographic skills are extremely specialized and quite rare. They are normally acquired from long apprenticeship and the exercise of a sensitive and critical judgment. However, recent advances in personal computing are now replacing typewriters with laser systems capable of sophisticated typography -- complex typography is now directly accessible to large numbers of writers.
Typographic teachers and researchers are currently much concerned by this new accessibility of typography, combined with the challenge of adapting typographic conventions developed for printing to the electronic media. But before new "grammars" can be established, and before empirical research can be useful -- before our concept of literacy can be thus extended -- we need a deeper understanding of typography as an integral part of written language.
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