Re: Reading

From: Head, Phineas (
Date: Tue May 06 1997 - 12:10:32 BST

Dear All,

Apologies for the unreasnable length of the rum goings on which are to
follow; it comprises about three messages worth of text, since one of
those blasted Unix contraptions contrived to lose compleatly my last
two messages of the previous term. Pens with nibs that you fill from a
bottle is what I say.....


1) Don't use the Unix machines for EMail (see above)

2) (This pertains to reading and is thus a little out of date ~ sorry.)
Last term, my mother came up here on the pretext of a concert and to be
subject to a experiment I ran to do with something called synaesthesia
(see 4)). She came to the lecture on reading and suggested an
interesting point about a game she used to play as a child which the
text book rather ignors. See what you think.

Try this....

Read aloud the following words, quickly and evenly;


Now look at the anti-penaltimate one. I bet you said Mac-HINery, but
look at the lettres ~ 'machinery'! Now this rather frivolous excersize
rases an interesting point, namely, what is going on here? It is
obvious that the mid-word upper case letter has something to do with it
but try this;


It may be that you said "DISSS-mal" rather than "DIZ-mal" on the last
one but the effect is not half as great, not so much as to change the
semantics of what is being read.

The only thing I can think of is that some sort of 'phonemic
habituation' is occuring, that we become used to a cirtain scheme of
saying the words and the 'MacHinery' one seems to fit it. However, this
does rather suggest that we don't read things very carfully. On which
part then do we 'key' to recognise the word? Or do we just get it wrong

3) In relation to this, how is it we can read and make (some?) sence of
that writain with poor spelling (say, 95% of my sky writing ~ I have
left this one unchecked to prove my point!). Is it that the initial
stage in the lexical rout is a sort of template match involving both
"letters included in' and 'context of' the word(s) within that
scentence? Which is the more important?

4) The eagal eyed of you may have spotted the Devil's Advocate box in
Ch. 3 of Green about something called 'synaesthesia'. This is something
of great interest to me and, for those of you I havn't yet bored to
tears with, going on and on about it (sorry Andy. S) here's a tin-pot

Some people have a brain abnormality (that's 'abnormal' in the sence of
statisticaly uncommon) which alows them to have a cross modal sensory
perception, so they might 'smell' colour or 'taste' shape. Good
gracious! This ISN'T metaphore (like "singin' da blues" or "Black
Monday") but an actual, irepresable percept, and is consistant for
life, i.e. same stimulus = same responce. Honestly.

Well, my mother has this (she is a 'chromeasthete', she sees music and
words as colours) and one of the experiments I ran involved her
recognising week days (for her, each has a different colour) shown in
different colours and measuring her reaction time to do so. It turned
out that she was significantly faster on the words in the 'right'
colour (for her), t = 3.65, df = 498 95%. Stats I know, sorry.

So, how does this impact on the duel rout theory? How do we fit this
facilitation (actualy, I think its more inhibition with the wrong
colours but this notwithstanding...) into one or both routs, especily
since we arn't all synaesthetes?

5) Back to the present. We agree that we lose most of our pragmatics
with the writain word; is this a balence the 'Netiquet' practise of so
called 'emoticons' attempts to redress? N.B.
"Emoticons' are little icons one can construct from the letters and
punctuation marks on the standard computer keybord which, when one
looks at side on are designed to recover some intonation frm the text.
They are supposed to make EMail more freindly. Or anoying depending on
you view of computers. Examples would be~

:) = happy ;( = angry :o = suprised %} = under the influence
~ I bare no responsibility for this one.

Their use seems to stem from the fact that many of the sentences
freinds write to each other, cirtainly over EMail contain SENTENCES
whose content, without the benifit of years of history of freinship
(and thus and implicit understanding of each other's humer, shared
jokes and experiences and temperement) are really jolly rude. They can
also acount for instances of sarcasm which purly writain language

E.g. I am really glad that smashing fellow Ken
   Clarke still has a place in Parliament.

E.g. I am really glad that smashing fellow Ken
   Clarke still has a place in Parliament. ;(

"Prapse not....

Appologies again; if you have been, many thanks.

         Sorry, I forgot this one......

6) I am a voracious devourer of cinema and, on my many trips
   to see non-English language art films, have notessed an
interesting effect. If the film is subtitaled and containes
a funny line, the audience will largh at it, only upon
completion by the character in that language, NOT when the
English sub-tital comes up (even though this is invariably
before) and even when it is obvious that all the information
necessery for the joke to work is on screen. Now for a
French or even German film one could argue that enough of
the audience new the language to 'get' it and were ignoring
the English script but this works also for Dutch, Spanish
and Argentinien!
        In relation to this, a wonderful concert of Estonian
choral music I went to last year had a narritive piece be
the composer Veljo Tormis, in a language which again, none
of the audience could have spoken. At one part, the
contralto soloist I think it was, spoke a line (not
sang, although it was part of the piece) from which the
audience, given only the thinest of sketches as to the
libretto's content, could recover enough 'speaker meaning'
to find this tirelessly entertaining, from intonation alone!

{If this doen't make scence it is due entirely to my
somewhat confounded explanation so tell me and I will have
another go since I fear you had to be there for this one...}

What pragmatic effects are occuring in these two?

                 Very best wishes,

P.S. That's art films not 'art' films.


Phineas de Thornley Head

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