A lexigram is a symbol that represents a word but is not necessarily indicative of the object referenced by the word. Lexigrams were notably used by the Georgia State University Language Research Center to communicate with chimpanzees. Researchers and primates were able to communicate with one another using lexigram boards made by up to three panels of a total 384 keys.
Ernst von Glasersfeld coined the term lexigram in 1971, created the first 120 of them, and designed the grammar that regulated their combination. This artificial language was called Yerkish, in honor of Robert M. Yerkes, the founder of the laboratory within which the lexigrams were first used in 1973 by the chimpanzee Lana within the context of the LANA project.
The term lexigram has also been used to describe a mystical property of words. A lexigrammer is one who composes lexigrams, decodes hidden messages in words, titles, names, terms, phrases or succinctly stated problems by putting together full, meaningful sentences using only letters found in those expressions. These messages convey a deeper meaning related to the subject of the original name, statement or expression. The act of lexigramming is considered a spiritual process.
Associating the lexigram as a spiritual process was first done by Linda Goodman in her book Star Signs. She described several criteria which she believed were necessary for uncovering the spiritual meaning of a person’s name. While word-play lexigrams can reveal hidden codes or messages within a person’s name, the veracity of any spiritual value is subject to personal interpretation.