Z. Zhou, H. Liu, S.M. Li, J. Xiao

Institute of Surveying and Mapping, Information Engineering University, Zhengzhou 450052, China


As the new technologies such as visualization, multimedia and virtual reality are used in mapping domain, many new types of maps appear such as electronic maps, multimedia maps and three-dimension maps. These new type maps have new ways to transmit and cognize geospatial information. Besides graphic symbols, they also use auditory media including sound and music; visual media such as cartoon and video; touch media and mixed media combined by the three types mentioned before .As a result, the meaning of map symbols has been widely enlarged. So, it is not accurate to summarize all the new media solely as map symbols. Instead, the new ways of transmitting and cognizing geospatial information are defined as cartographic language.

In this paper, the author classifies the modern cartographic language as three types: visual symbols, auditory symbols and touch symbols. Visual symbols mean that people access geospatial information through sight. The visual symbols can be subdivided into static symbols and dynamic symbols. The static visual symbols mainly use shapes and colors and other static visual variables to transmit information. And static visual symbols are often applied to paper maps. The dynamic symbols, like cartoons, videos and other animated pictures, are easy to understand and accept, mainly used in multimedia electronic maps and three-dimension maps.

Auditory symbols mean that people access geospatial information through hearing. For example, in thematic map, we can use background commentary and music to convey abundance information, such as and the introduction of the human and social development. The auditory symbols include phonetic symbols, like commentary and non-phonetic symbols, like music and sound effect.

The touch symbols refer to that people acquire information by the touch of body, especially fingers. The touch symbols are now mainly used in special maps for blind man.

In addition, the paper also discusses the essential and composition laws of the modern cartographic language, namely visual variable, auditory variable and touch variable. Visual variable include static visual variable and dynamic visual variable. Auditory variable include audio frequency, playing time and so on. Touch variable include symbol’s figure and so on.