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Symbols basics according to Matyssek

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The following is a translation/summary of pages 224-228 of Matyssek's Handbuch der Notizentechnik.

THe numbering is Matyssek's. In the original you will also find references to examples of each point which are given elsewhere in Matyssek's (500 page) work. You can find Matyssek's Note-taking principles here

Handbuch der Notizentechnik fuer Dolmetscher, Heinz Matyssek.

Symbols basics, Matyssek


1. Guiding principles for the use of symbols should be simplicity, economy, ease of recognition because they are pictoral, clarity, unambiguity.

2. The symbol must be convincing both in form and meaning.

3. Where possible a symbol should be independent of any language.

4. Symbols that derive from a language should be derived from the mother tongue

5. Notes can be taken in the language of the interpreter's choice.

6. A symbol should represent not just a word but a whole field of meaning (eg. think, consider, reflect, weigh up, mull).

7. A symbol should be such that it can be varied and developed to represent related concepts.

8. Symbols should be easily combinable with other symbols.

9. Basic symbols (for person, politics, economy, trade, industry, law etc) should be adaptable to create whole families of symbols.

10. Meaningful changes to basic symbols should only be made when necessary and according to a consistent method.

a) adding a o to denote a person to a verb like disappear denotes that humans were the agent of the disappearance.

b) number, gender, tense and mode are all relevant parts of the message and should be noted when not obvious from context.

c) adjectives do not need to be noted with their agreements, though comparatives and superlatives should be noted.

d) verbs need not be conjugated in the notes unless it's essential to capturing the sense.

e) past partiples need not be noted (unless absolutely necessary)

f) adding a raised d (denoting the present participle in German) is a good way to note some relative and conditional clauses.

g) Nouns from verbs (with -ung suffix in German) can be noted by adding the symbol representing that ending to the verb stem or symbol denoting it.

h) abstract nouns from verbs (with -heit suffix in German) can be noted by adding a symbol denoting that ending /  to the verb stem or symbol denoting it.

i) To express the concept of leading, guiding, standing-at-the-head-of, stretch the symbol upwards or move part of it upwards relative to the rest.

j) Pronouns need only be noted if they are essential to meaning.


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