LINGUIST List 14.2681

Sat Oct 4 2003

Sum: Letter-order Study

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Christina Sanchez, Summary: letter-order study

Message 1: Summary: letter-order study

Date: Fri, 03 Oct 2003 11:00:36 +0000
From: Christina Sanchez <>
Subject: Summary: letter-order study

Dear LINGUIST List subscribers,

on Friday, September 25, I posted the following query
(Linguist 14.2574):

Several people have sent me different versions of a linguistic text
that seems to be very popular among non-linguists at the moment. It
states that research at an English university has revealed that it is
still possible to read a text when all letters (except the first and
last) of every word are in a different order. The text itself is
written in exactly this way and thereby proves its point. (Compare one
of the German versions below.) Does anyone know the title of this
study and where it has been published?

Afugrnud enier Sduite an enier Elingshcen Unviresti�t ist es eagl, in
wlehcer Rienhnelfoge die Bcuhtsbaen in eniem Wrot sethen, das enizg
wcihitge dbaei ist, dsas der estre und lzete Bcuhtsbae am rcihgiten
Paltz snid. Der Rset knan ttolaer Bl�sdinn sien, und du knasnt es
torztedm onhe Porbelme lseen. Das ghet dseahlb, wiel wir nchit
Bcuhtsbae fr Bcuhtsbae enizlen lseen, snodren W�retr als Gnaezs.
Nchit shlcceht oedr?


I would like to thank all those who have expressed their interest in
this linguistic question, who have sent me versions of the above text
in other languages or who have sent me information on the topic, in
particular Suzette Haden Elgin, Christine Haunz and Mark Sharp.

Some versions of the text attribute the research in question to
Cambridge University. Matt Davis from Cambridge Universitys Cognition
and Brain Sciences Unit cannot confirm this, but he has put a very
interesting and readable discussion about the science behind the
phenomenon under 

He breaks down the meme and mentions G. E. Rawlinsons unpublished PhD
Thesis in the Psychology Department of the University of Nottingham
(UK, 1976), The significance of letter position in word recognition,
which is believed to be the original demonstration of the effect of
letter randomisation. I have also been told that Graham Rawlinson has
sent a letter to New Scientist magazine (vol 162 issue 2188 - 29 May
1999, page 55) titled 'Reibadailty'. Other sources mention an 1958
article by Jerome Bruner and D. A. ODowd in volume 1 of Language and
Speech, p. 98-101, A note on the informativeness of parts of words,
which is said to state that subjects had greater difficulty
recognising deformed words when initial or terminal letters were
exchanged than when only middle letters were moved around. I hope
that these short notes will help those who are interested in the
effects of letter order.

Yours, Christina Sanchez 
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