RE: Common Errors in English - pattern recognition

Subject: RE: Common Errors in English - pattern recognition
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2004 09:41:03 -0800

Quoting Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>:

> From what I remember from neurolinguistics, and in particular studies of
> aphasia and other linguistic disabilities, reading, writing, and speaking all
> involve different parts of the brain to varying degrees (in what combinations
> I don't remember).

This the start of the answer, so thanks.

However, does the fact that different parts of the brain are involved mean that
the functions themselves are different? People who have lost part of their
brain sometimes regain the skills associated with it, so the simple fact that
different parts are involved may not point to a difference.

Moreover, although reading and writing obviously are not identical, they
obviously overlap closely. Is it possible that the semantic difference does not
reflect an actual difference?

I really don't know the answers to these questions. That's why I'm asking them.

> If by phonetic shorthand, you mean something like the IPA, then yeah. It does
> focus on sounds and not words. But you can bet that at some point, those
> spellings would become some form of a standard; humans being what we are,
> creatures of habit. :-)

True enough. But people are also inconsistent to the point of messiness. Not
everybody would fix on a single standard, even in their own writing. Instead,
they might fix on two or three spellings or symbols as acceptable. As I said
earlier in this thread, Shakespeare signed his own name several different ways -
and if a single standard on your own name doesn't matter to you, then probably
a single standard on any other word is probably unimportant to you.

> Well, this wouldn't follow because the person writing with the non-standard
> spelling would internalize what they're doing and so become a master at
> writing in that style.

It strikes me that, in talking about non-standardized spelling, everyone has a
tendency to think in terms of standardized spelling. People who know little
about languages other than their own sometimes think that learning another one
is like deciphering a code, and that there's a one-to-one relation between
words in one language and words in another. In the same way, in talking about
non-standardized spelling, people assume that there has to be some other form
of consistency. But that doesn't necessarily follow. If consistency is not a
virtue to you in spelling, you may fall into habits, but, you may also deviate
because following a pattern simply isn't important to you.

> That's why it takes a
> couple of pages to get used to Shakespeare, or A Clockwork Orange for that
> matter. Your brain is looking for patterns and once it finds them, it's a
> happy camper. :-)

Fair enough. But, when you're readng for sounds, rather than the shape of the
letters, you aren't nearly so dependent on standardization for understanding.

> I don't think this is what's going on. If you're reading, then you're
> processing visual information, and unless you're sounding out each phoneme
> one-by-one without attaching any meaning to them, and then saying the word
> outloud, and then after that understanding what the word means, (which I
> doubt you are because it's a lot more work), you're still doing visual
> pattern recognition. By the time you say it (even if you "say it" in your
> head) your brain already knows what the word is because it has processed the
> visual info that represents that word on the page.

All I can really say in response is that this description doesn't fit what I
observe and feel. It may be technically correct, because obviously you are
responding to visual information. However, when you read phonetically, you are
responding less to the visual pattern than to what it encodes. This is very
different from responding to the shape of words, the way that whole language
readers are supposed to do. There's a whole other level of activity going on in
phonetic reading that this description ignores. I suspect that we are not
talking about simply alternative means of processing written material, but
fundamentally different ones.

As one consequence, I suspect that phonetic readers are far more likely to
appreciate poetry or the sound of any writing than other readers.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604-421.7177

RE: Common Errors in English - pattern recognition: From: Sean Hower

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