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Srcwenig anorud wtih the ruels


"I hvae jsut had a rvelaiton," I tlel my wfie, tihs tmie not in our Tkoyo hmoe, but in "Colmun Lnad," wehre the cnovnetinos of dilaog can be bnet at wlil.

She steras at me. I maen, mroe than uasul. "OK," she syas. "What are you up to this time?"

"Nthonig. But I jsut haerd aubot smoe rsareehcers at Cmarbigde who hvae dcsoerived taht the ruels of Eglnish sepllnig dno't mtaetr mcuh. Wehn popele raed, tiher eeys sikm the leins so qcikuly taht all tehy ralely pcik up are the fsrit and lsat ltetres of ecah wrod. Waht cmeos in beweten is icosneqnuteail. Mix the ltetres and msot popele can stlil fololw alnog fnie."

"Well, I believe it's finally come." Her eeys acrh. "The moment that you have lost your mind."

"No, no, lsetin. . . . Tihs has ipmlicatonis far byoned the ruels of Eglnish sepllnig."

"English spelling has rules? That's a new one."

"Tehre you go. Ttah's why Eglnish drievs Jpaansee ntus. It stes up ruels, but tehn braeks tehm wlily-nlily. Jpaansee conant snatd it bacusee tihs is a ruel-besad scoteiy. The wohle cutnory is ablteosuey crzay aobut ruels. But the celar msseage form Cmarbigde is taht ruels are not so imrptonat. Jpaan nedes to haer tihs."

"And you need to hear that this is annoying. Are you suggesting a society without rules?"

"Of csuore not. Scoteiy msut hvae smoe from of oderr. But in Jpaan the ruels ruel wtih an iorn fsit. All mnlupicaiteis miaitnan eronumos bauercurcaceis jsut to esnure taht ecah tmie cizetins mvoe or get mirerad or buy lnad or psas gas tehy will oeby all the trlioinls of ruels taht go wtih it -- in trilipacte. Hvane't you hraed popele crictizie Jpaan as pvassie? Wlel, tehre's the raseon why. Tehre are too mnay dman ruels! Tehy scuk aawy popele's egreny!"

"But to throw away the rules would probably result in something akin to the state of your mind. Blubbering nonsense."

"I do not avdoacte romevnig all the ruels. Jsut the slliy oens."

"Oh, and what would you cut? Since you know 'silly' so well."

"Oh, lkie the ruel taht syas freoigenrs cna't be litesd on Jpaansee fmialy rtegesirs. Or mybae I'd get rid of the fmialy rtegesir seystm all teothger. Wulod scuh elnimitaoin maen cahos? No. All it wulod maen is taht an amry of piencl psheurs wulod be out of jbos. Jpaan as a ntaoin wulod rlol on woihtut a htich and popele wulod lvie lfie jsut as hpapliy."

She saheks her haed and syas: "I'm not so sure. All the hoops we jump through -- and the bureaucrats who hold them -- seem necessary to me. They keep the nation running smoothly. Relationships can be sensitive and here we esteem harmony, which is essential in a packed place like Japan. The rules provide that harmony."

"Yaeh, rihgt. I rsfuee to beelvie taht a bcnuh of brudnesmoe ruels aplpy the gresae taht kepes Jpaan sdilnig aolng. Not taht I tnhik 'ruels are mdae to be bkroen.' But in Jpaan the staetmnet of 'ruels are ruels' is aikn to a rligeouis mntara. Lkie tihs Cmarbigde sepllnig odrer swhos, popele can get by fnie wtih mcuh lses cnotorl."

"I think it shows that the scholars at Cambridge have too much free time."

"No, tyrh'ee on to seomtinhg, I'm cretian. For if we tkae it one setp frahter and enlimitae the mdilde ltetres atlgetoehr, tnihk of all the tmie we'd svae, not to mnteoin the mnoey snept on ink. I maen, isnetad of tpynig, 'Wehn Esat Mrareis Wset,' I culod jsut witre, 'Wn Et Ms Wt.' Taht wulod get rid of eevn mroe baerucrauts! See?"

"I see I was wrong. This is the moment you have lost your mind."

"What's more," she cntonieus, "you can't point out some oddity about English spelling and weave that into some woolly social analysis. Analogies are the weakest form of argument. It's like saying a person deserves to be president because he looks good on camera. It's illogical because the aspects you are comparing are not necessarily related."

"How drae you fiol my alnogay wtih aontehr alnogay! Bedises, loigc deons't mtaetr aynmroe. Soctraes ins't pireesndt; Gogree Bsuh is. Haenv't you nitoecd?"

"And haven't you noticed that English is not the script of choice in Japan? We use Chinese characters here -- kanji -- and if you take a Chinese character and remove all but the first and last strokes, you'd better not expect to communicate. In like manner, you cannot yank out the wedges from Japanese society -- all those tedious rules or perhaps even some of them -- and expect for that society to stand up straight. You have to give consideration for where you are, not just what you think."

Hmm. Gogree Bsuh mgiht not buy taht, but I gseus I do. Atfer all, tpinyg lkie tihs is a pian in the btut. I'd try to get by on a wee jot or two, but in the end I've not the wit to do it. So I mvoe on to a dnifefret tipoc.

"I hvae jsut had a new rvelaiton," I tlel my wfie.

She rlols her eeys. "What is it this time?"

"Did you eevr nocite taht semoteims wehn you try to msisplel wrods on prupsoe, the wrod prscosnieg sotfawre jsut tekas oevr and dones't let you?"


"Do you tnhik it culod be a sgin taht Blil Gaets is tnriyg to cntorl the wrold? By imponisg his vaule ssyetm on the rset of us? I maen, why cna't I splel the way I wnat to? Who is he to say?"

She gvies me an eevn lngoer strae and syas, "Remind me to write Bill Gates and beg him never to donate to Cambridge."

I wrtie him for her, but I've jsut had an eevn nweer rvelaiton. Tpiyng wtihuot sepleilng ruels . . . has suekcd aawy all my egreny.

To cnotcat Tomhas Dlilon, sned e-mali to [email protected]

The Japan Times: Feb. 26, 2005
(C) All rights reserved

613 Posts
Truly Awesome! It's really neat how one is able to ignore the blatant misspellings and still fully comprehend the content of the sentence (well, at least in English). Is it just applicable to Latin-based languages? Languages that are symbol or character based (i.e. Chinese) don't utilize individual letters to construct sentences. Hence, does it follow that people whose primary written language is character/symbol based are less flexible cognitively when dealing with language? I don't think so, but I have neither the sufficient information nor the scientific background to form an educated opinion.

I wonder what our budding cognitive scientists, Proto and Boltzmann, think about this?

OMG, that sucked all my energy to even read that, never mind type it.
Is English your primary language? Because I found that article fairly easy to follow despite the intentional misspellings.

Premium Member
3,093 Posts
It isn't mine, and i found it rather easy as well. However, there were 3 or 4 words that i couldn't get. And, at least in spanish it holds true as well, you can get the meaning of the words even if they have the inner letters totally misplaced. In fact, the first time i heard of this was in an email i received with spanish text written in this way.

1,035 Posts
That's kinda old. Maybe not the story, but the fcat taht you can mix up the iennr letrets of wrdos and still understand them easily. Still pretty neat though.

Knowledge is the solution
7,168 Posts
Well... even though i failed to catch a word here and there I was able to get most of it. Linguistics and its intrincacies are far from being my speciality, but it's fairly known that when reading, most of us usually don't read letter by letter, but rather word or group of words by words (the more literate and well lectured you are, the bigger the chunk of words you are able to get) That is because usually you recognize this patters by their form, rather than by their individual and low level processing (hence why we are able to recognize subtitles that their lower half go off the screen, or why can we read lowercase easier than UPPERCASE)

However, how can we recognize words whose usual structure has been totally ****ed up? Let's make a little analysis by taking a random word from the text

Why can we almost immediatly discover that this word actually meant write? Would it have been the same if I had wrote something like itrwe? The point is that the word already started with wr. There are quite a few words that start in that pattern, and when analyzed in its context, the actual meaning comes out as obvious

Which is further reinforced by this word. There are a handful of words that start with c, so trying to make it from there would be too time consuming. However when analyzing its context, the word continous comes out immediately.

Which drives us to the conclusion that what we are doing, rather than trying to decipher word per word, we are trying to decipher and idea, a train of thought, or at least a logical sequence of words.

Now on the topic of Eastern Languages... since I've only been studying Japanese for barely more than 1.5 years, I'm not sure if I'm absolutely correct about this, but when you are reading Kanjis (read: ideograms), rather than thinking on its sound, you think about its meaning, both by itself and with the kanjis it is surrounded by. So, reading Japanese, rather than reading words or group or words, is reading ideas without actually thinking on it's reading (I know it's odd but that is the best I can explain it).... so misplacing a kanji can be quite misleading... this usually leads to you actually having to think about the sound, and the Kanjis it could have been misplaced for...

Don't take what I said as an omen thought.... it's just what I remember from psychology class, some things I've read and others I've thought. For real and trademarked omens wait for Boltz say on this :D

8,882 Posts
Well, I’ve been delving into the cognitive sciences as of late, but I’ve to say that lingustics is a vast field. I’m not familiar with a lot of it; only with the major papers and authors. Of all that I’ve read and compared with evolutionary biology, I tend to agree the most with psycholinguists of the Chomskyan tradition.

The general belief among evolutionary psychologists and psycholinguists is that language do not affect thinking in any significant way (Steven Pinker, in his book “The Language Instinct”, describes such influence as weak and uninteresting). These weak effects are reflected in Slobin’s thesis of “thinking for speaking” (Slobin asserts that language affects thought when we’re thinking with the intent to use language).

But the problem posed by netghost 2.0 is of a somewhat different kind. If we take it literally, the answer is no (at least within the Chomskyan linguistics tradition, which is supported by extensive research by the likes of Fodor, Pinker, Tooby and Cosmides or Lakhoff and Johnson); different languages (namely eastern languages) do not affect thought significantly, therefore speakers of those languages are not cognitively impaired in any way.

But I don’t think that’s the question asked by netghost 2.0. What he wants to know is whether eastern languages are less versatile and flexible than western ones, and whether speakers of those tongues are affected by this. The answer, as far as my knowledge goes is: maybe. That’s because I know very little of eastern languages, and I’ve never read any serious linguistics paper specifically about them. As an educated guess, I think that those languages have a lesser error-tolerance, since one wrong element in a sentence can screw up the whole meaning, in ways that are not easily corrected “on-the-fly” by the reader (for instance, in the text above, anyone who speaks English can correct “rihgt” to “right” on the fly, since only some letters were misplaced. Now, if the whole word was changed, correction wouldn’t be so easy [and AFAIK, eastern languages operate with whole words]). But even then, a lot of our error-correction is dependant upon context (take “saheks” as an example. When it’s seen alone, it’s not so obvious that it means “shakes”, but given the context [“She saheks her haed”] it becomes much more obvious).

DISCLAIMER: I’m not linguist, psycholinguist or anything. My knowledge of those subjects is much smaller than I’d like it to be, so I’m not as certain about my opinions on these matters. In fact, the whole linguistics community is widely divided in regards to the question of whether language affects thought. Although the strong Sappir-Whorf hypothesis (which states that language determines thought, and that there’s no thought without language) is widely regard as incorrect, weaker versions of it still persist in the modern literature. Even then, I lean towards the universalistic approach of Chomsky (generative grammar, and the like) and his intellectual heirs because of their evolutionary backing (given that evolutionary theory has been confirmed to an amazing extent). But I’d rather leave the real debate to be held by the appropriate experts – what I’m relating here is my personal view on the matter, informed by what I’ve read thus far – it’s not necessarily right.
And second, my knowledge of eastern languages is, as I said before, very limited. Therefore, any Japanese, Chinese or Korean speaker may feel free to correct me if what I’ve said regarding them is rubbish (i.e., maybe Japanese speakers can also correct easily for misplaced kanjis, when considering the proper context).

EDIT: I've been thinking about kanjis and their strokes. I wonder what is the real information theoretical complexity of a kanji, and whether japanase-speaking people can easily recognize an incorrectly drawed kanji (changing or removing one or two strokes from it, for instance)...

1,576 Posts
Hm.. Proto, aren't you studying AI? What do you know of the Turkish language and its cognitive properties? It seems to be of great interest to those who study AI at the University of Amsterdam. Isn't that a semi-roman semi-eastern language?

The Hunter
15,879 Posts
Interesting stuff you have there Seta, I've read the first paragraph in Dutch as well some time ago. So I already knew what this text was about. I didn't bother reading the rest of it. I found out that even in English this isn't very difficult for me to understand :)

It would be a nice mind game and trick for the Enlgish examns coming up :p I better not point the teacher out to this one.
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