Composable alphabets

Updated December 05, 2019

Good alphabets compose at multiple levels.

  • Letters combine into words, which describe ideas.
  • DNA basepairs combin into genes, which encode traits.
  • Minecraft lets you craft new blocks with new properties from combinations of other blocks.

When components of an alphabet are combined, they often express meanings which are different in kind to the alphabet that makes them up. Each new level of meaning forms another alphabet, at another level.

The most powerful alphabets enable composition at multiple levels. This allows for great expressive power across different kinds of meanings, at multiple levels of complexity.