LINGUIST List 14.2892

Thu Oct 23 2003

Disc: New: Nonlinear Processing of Written Language?

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. vrinda chidambaram, Linear/Nonlinear Processing of Written Language

Message 1: Linear/Nonlinear Processing of Written Language

Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 13:23:18 -0400
From: vrinda chidambaram <>
Subject: Linear/Nonlinear Processing of Written Language

I recently got a job working as a reader for a blind post-doctorate of
Electrical Engineering.

I was watching him read braille not long ago and noticed that his
hands were sort of all over the page and not moving linearly as I
would have expected. I asked him about it, and he said that the way
people read braille is that they read the right half of the page with
the right hand and read the left half of the page with the left
hand. So with his right hand, he begins in the middle of a line and
moves right. With his left hand, he starts at the beginning of the
same line and continues moving right until he meets the word or group
of words that his right hand encountered first. He reads both halves
of the line simultaneously but processes them separately. I watched
him read some more, and indeed, this is precisely what he does, and he
says that most readers of braille do the same thing and vary only in
the number of fingers they use to read. He was convinced that seeing
people use their eyes in much the same way. I am curious to know what
this could possibly mean about how we process written language. Is the
way that we process written language strictly linear?

Vrinda Chidambaram
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