LINGUIST List 14.2905

Thu Oct 23 2003

Disc: Nonlinear Processing of Written Language?

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. Mark Chamberlin, Re: 14.2892, Disc: New: Nonlinear Processing
  2. Allan C. Wechsler, Re: 14.2892, Disc: New: Nonlinear Processing

Message 1: Re: 14.2892, Disc: New: Nonlinear Processing

Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2003 12:18:25 +0200
From: Mark Chamberlin <>
Subject: Re: 14.2892, Disc: New: Nonlinear Processing

The nonlinearity the Internet fosters, is just a varitation on this
functionality. Taking the normal practices of readers and expediting
them makes it possible to glance at headlines, read a some details
from lead paragraphs, go deeper into a several articles and take
referring Hyperlinks or Search to a few others. There is even a trail
of electrons which offers an advantage (sometimes a disadvantage) over
the memory.

Even in the past it has been true that, except for longer engrossing
works, reading has seldom been linear for very long at a stretch and
most articles have been mentally eviscerated by the majority of
readers. The talent for doing this well and making effective use of
the results is key to progress in much of modern life, the law for
example. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of this period in the
information world is that there is not yet a structure like the Free
Public Library to make electronic publication function as print has.
We must yet be content with scraps and self-promoted press.

Mark Chamberlin
Narva mnt. 25-719
Tartu 51013
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Message 2: Re: 14.2892, Disc: New: Nonlinear Processing

Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2003 16:48:49 -0400
From: Allan C. Wechsler <>
Subject: Re: 14.2892, Disc: New: Nonlinear Processing

Vrinda Chidambaram asked what the implications of two-handed Braille
reading were for the visual processing of written language;
Chidambaram's blind informant used both hands in parallel for
simultaneously reading the left and right halves of a line, and felt
sure that sighted people did the same thing with their eyes.

I don't know whether Chidambaram's informant meant that the left and
right eyes were used independently for processing separate chunks of
written text simultaneously. My intuition is that this cannot
possibly be true, but I suppose a clever experimentalist might design
a test and surprise me.

However, I do remember that when I was a kid I got interested in
speed-reading, particularly in the program sold by Evelyn Wood Reading
Dynamics. Their technique involved using the fingers as guides for
foveal aim; they taught a graded series of finger movements intended
to guide the eye to ever-more-efficient scanning patterns. One of
their premises was that it was possible to scan a line of text with
fixation-points progressing from right to left, opposite to the flow
of text; one would then assemble the line mentally and still perceive
it in the intended order. This was important to the Wood technique,
because one of their phases involved scanning lines
boustrophedonically, to eliminate the long saccade that is needed to
return the fovea to the beginning of the next line. Thus, every other
line would be scanned in reverse; EWRD claimed that this would not
hurt comprehension, since we are always assembling images from a
series of fixations anyway, and the neurological basis for this
process could be co-opted to scan text out of order. I was never able
to master that technique, but apparently some experts believed in it.

Allan C. WechslerFrom Thu Oct 23 06:18:27 2003
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