Spelling ability

Discuss Marilyn's column in PARADE magazine.

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Postby hogshead » Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:44 pm

JO 753 asked:
Do you know Chinese?


No, I got that from Google.

JO 753 said:
some years ago there was a study that disproved that.


Maybe so. I don't believe it. The Chinese certainly read symbols.

JO 753 said:
the mixed up letter thing seems to contradict it.


I don't think so. You can just go into translation mode. One can "read" it, just as one can "read" Nooalf, but it is tedious.
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Postby JO 753 » Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:41 pm

That Chinese can be read doesn't contradict the idea that English is read to some degree by the letters in the words.

Reading mixed up letter words is not the same as reading Nooalf. At least for some words, you will actually have to figure out what sound is being represented by a few letters before you know what the word is, whereas the mixed up words have no phonetic logic; your brain just unscrambles them, usually without any conscious effort.

In both cases you will get faster with more practice.
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Postby hogshead » Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:54 pm

JO 753 said:
That Chinese can be read doesn't contradict the idea that English is read to some degree by the letters in the words.


Of course not. It proves that symbols can represent words. That is my point. I contend that English can be read either as letters or as symbols. I further contend that most people read words (chiefly) as symbols. I further, further contend that reading words as symbols is more efficient and requires one less step.

JO 753 said:
Reading mixed up letter words is not the same as reading Nooalf.


Not exactly, but it is much the same. It requires an intermediate step in most cases. There are exceptions in the mixed-up letters where the "shape" of the word is close enough that translation is nearly automatic.
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Postby JO 753 » Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:40 pm

I guess you've never read much mixed up text.

Someone posted a few paragraphs in one of the forums I'm in several years ago, (maybe it's here) and I was going at about 75% normal reading speed in a few sentences, which is typical.

There has been alot of research using fMRI to map the portions of the brain involved in reading.

Beginners use different areas than adepts, dyslexics have to develop alternatives to the normal route the visual info takes, and most women use both sides of the brain, but men only one.

I believe you're correct that reading words as units is faster, but how the brain interprets these units is not simply as a shape. That's what the mixed up letters demonstrate.

Anyway, none of this works as a reason to maintain a disorganized orthography. A literate adult will find it tiresome to read Nooalf at first,
but will be able to adapt to it in a very short time.

Keep in mind that we have read billions of words by the time we're 25 or 30, so are as perfectly adapted to the standard as we ever will be, so comparing speed with something you've only been doing for a minute is not fair.
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Postby hogshead » Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:24 pm

JO 753 said:
I guess you've never read much mixed up text.


True.

JO 753 said:
but how the brain interprets these units is not simply as a shape. That's what the mixed up letters demonstrate.


Maybe "shape" is the wrong word. It is sort of like looking at a dog. Dogs come in all sizes and shapes, but yet we generally know a dog when we see it. We generally don't mistake cats for dogs. We can detect a breed of dog that we have never seen before as being a dog.

JO 753 said:
none of this works as a reason to maintain a disorganized orthography.


True. I never said it was. My point is that there is no strong need to change, for most people. There are however reasons (discussed earlier) not to change, such as the etymology argument. To me clues to a words etymology are far more important than simplified spelling.


There is no doubt in my mind that in a short while I could read Nooalf quite well, but for me, there is no need. I, and most people, I believe, are not even slightly handicapped by a disorganized orthography.
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Postby JO 753 » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:53 am

We generally don't mistake cats for dogs. We can detect a breed of dog that we have never seen before as being a dog.


That's an interesting analogy.

A dog is not a simple shape. We will recognize it from practically any angle and no matter what pose it's in.

I wonder if the reading researchers have thought of this?

I, and most people, I believe, are not even slightly handicapped by a disorganized orthography.


That depends whether you consider 'handicap' from an absolute or relative perspective.

If everybody has the same problem, there is no relative handicap.

From an absolute perspective - considering the design, you should be able to do this - you are handicapped.

This has been covered here already and is on the pictures page at the Nooalf website.
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Postby robert 46 » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:31 am

JO 753 wrote:You're going to have to face the fact that your objection to Nooalf is not based on anything of substance. All you have is inertia and sentiment, Robert.

Evolutionary change is acceptable. Revolutionary change is not. You promote yourself as a reformer, but you are only a subversive. Beware of the wolf in sheep's clothing who promises a simple solution but brings chaos. (Applies to politics, as well.)
About your point - some years ago there was a study that disproved that.

Pronouns are notoriously difficult to disambiguate. "Some years ago there was a study which disproved people read whole words as symbols." If the processing is subconscious and looking at the word elicits the meaning then for all practical purposes there is a direct relationship between seeing the word and knowing the meaning.
I can't recall any details, but I have the notion that syllables and number of letters had something to do with it.

Why make a claim that you cannot back up? It is just a time-waster.
Also, the mixed up letter thing seems to contradict it. Ulnses yuo lraened to raed by hte wlohe wrod mteohd, oyu nca edra hsit ryev slaeyi.

The above is much slower to process than the correctly-spelled sentence. Each word must be transformed into the proper symbol before the meaning is recognized. Just try to figure out the "Jumbles" in the newspaper to understand this. Rdng sntncs wtht vwls, bt wth prpr cnsnnnt rdr, s fstr.

*****

JO 753 wrote:
hogshead wrote:I, and most people, I believe, are not even slightly handicapped by a disorganized orthography.

That depends whether you consider 'handicap' from an absolute or relative perspective.

If everybody has the same problem, there is no relative handicap.

From an absolute perspective - considering the design, you should be able to do this - you are handicapped.

From this it should be clear to all that you are the one with the relative handicap compared to the vast majority of English users because otherwise you wouldn't be promoting such a radical change.
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Postby hogshead » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:05 pm

JO 753 said:
That depends whether you consider 'handicap' from an absolute or relative perspective.


I was considering from my perspective, and how a think most people would consider from their perspectives. I still contend that there is no problem for the vast majority of people the ways things are now with the English language.

JO 753 said:
This has been covered here already and is on the pictures page at the Nooalf website.


What has been covered? What is the Nooalf pictures page?
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Postby JO 753 » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:44 pm

I believe the handicap was covered in this topic.

http://www.nooalf.com/INGPIKsRZ.html

On that page, I use handedness as an example. Most wouldn't think of being right or left handed as a handicap, but what if ambidexterity was the norm?

Or consider our memory. Nobody expects anybody to remember details such as phone numbers, or exact wording of a sentence, etc., yet we should be able to. There are some people who can memorize anything they want without using repetition. Some rare individuals remember everything.

From the perspective of Nooalf, regular spelling is a handicap. I do't know what you consider a 'vast majority', but the illiteracy rate is around 17%.
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Postby hogshead » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:56 pm

JO 753 said:
I do't know what you consider a 'vast majority', but the illiteracy rate is around 17%


83%
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Postby JO 753 » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:00 pm

Fair enough.

But do you feel that's the best we can do?
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Postby hogshead » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:31 pm

I don't think the illiteracy rate is 17%. I would guess it is somewhat lower than that. I personally don't know anyone that I would call illiterate.

Assuming that the illiteracy rate were 17%. Could we do better? I think so. Would Nooalf help? Maybe marginally so. Hard to say. Would it be worth it to render all previously written books effectively obsolete? Would it be worth losing etymology? For me and likely others, the answer is "no".
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Postby JO 753 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:16 am

Etymology is mostly baloney. Even if you could reliably figure out what a word means by it's spelling, it's not worth the educational hassle and inefficiency everybody is burdened with. In the real world, you need to look a word up to be sure you understand it.

You came up with a very good insight earlier. Please read the Nooalf site and the rest of this thread.
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Postby hogshead » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:11 am

JO 753 said:
Etymology is mostly baloney. Even if you could reliably figure out what a word means by it's spelling, it's not worth the educational hassle and inefficiency everybody is burdened with. In the real world, you need to look a word up to be sure you understand it.


I respectfully disagree. I have read your arguments on the Nooalf site against this and you are missing the point. Of course I can't be 100% sure what a word means by its spelling, but it gives me clues, not only to its meaning but to its language origination. I'm not saying that this is a huge thing, but it is bigger than the gain you claim Nooalf will be. At least that is my opinion, Etymology is just one reason not to change, and probably not the best reason, but in and of itself is enough for me.

I also reject your claim that traditional English is an educational hassle, or a burden to everybody. That is the crux of our difference. I contend that the revolution that you are proposing is not worth it as there is no real problem to begin with. I acknowledge that YOU have a problem with English, and as such presume that most others do too. I don't, and likewise assume that most others don't.

JO 753 said:
You came up with a very good insight earlier. Please read the Nooalf site and the rest of this thread.


This kind of patronizing talk doesn't score points with me.
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Postby JO 753 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:52 pm

No patronizing intended. Maybe you don't appreciate the quality of your insight?

hogshead wrote:
Maybe "shape" is the wrong word. It is sort of like looking at a dog. Dogs come in all sizes and shapes, but yet we generally know a dog when we see it. We generally don't mistake cats for dogs. We can detect a breed of dog that we have never seen before as being a dog.


I read a book about dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz MD. There were a few chapters about how the brain handles reading, but I don't recall any association being made between our natural ability to instantly recognize highly variable shapes as particular animals and reading ability.

But, I didn't read the entire book and it was a little old and not likely to be the utmost in published research when it came out, so maybe your idea isn't new. However, it was new to me and it seems to be a great explanation for the mixed up letter thing.

Can you honestly provide examples of words you understood entirely by etymological reasoning? In other words, you got nothing from context.
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