With the proliferation of access to digital media it is becoming
increasingly common for people to present information visually. This has led
to a myriad of new types of visual representations that frequently come into
existence without an associated formalism. It is often difficult to
retroactively fit a given formalism to an existing visual representation. We
present a formalism that provides us with tools capable of describing visual
representations. Using an analogy to natural languages, we build an alphabet
composed of two types of ordered letters. With these letters we can develop
several languages whose grammar is described by their morphology and syntax.
Each language thus defined is capable of describing a family of visual
representations. We illustrate this capability by specifying the morphology
and syntax necessary to describe two different visual representations of
multidimensional data, parallel coordinates and glyphs.
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