Reading speed in Chinese

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Syzygys, Feb 27, 2008.

  1. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    23,198
    This may be true (or false) - I know too little about Chinese characters to know, but the fact that a character 1 has more strokes than character 2 will not necessarily make recognition of it more difficult. (Reproducing it from memory, yes, but RECOGNITION, no.)

    This is because humans process visual patterns in parallel and automatically first break them down into more (not consciously perceived) fundamental characteristics. In fact, I think to recognize the 5000 characters you mention of college level, it would be easier to learn if there are more strokes than if only the minimum required to make the 5000, PROVIDED, that they were designed to have little in common. I.e. if for all x and y characters "x" and "y" activate entirely different sets of nerves in V1 (part of visual cortex where the more basics features, such as lines, arc shapes, terminators, angles and orientation are detected) then it is easier than if four of only 5 strokes forming both x and y were the same.

    For example, I have mild dyslexia of both pattern and phonetic types. Thus b and p get confused as they really are the same pattern in V1. In V1 these two letter are deconstructed into | and C which themselves are both activating two "line terminators" (O has no line terminators) Orientation in V1 is not very important nor is their difference in right / left handiness.)

    For an extremely well studied example: if you must search for X in a field of O s suddenly displayed on a computer screen, it will "pop out" at you immediately as all of their more basics V1 features are entirely different. (X activates 4 line terminators and two straight line detectors and some 90 degree angle detectors, but O does not activate any of these. O only actives the curved arc detectors, which X does not.)

    Conversely, if you must find the single T in a field of L it will take time, directly proportional to the number of L s that are present, because both activate one vertical line and one horizontal line detector and differ only in the number of 90 degree detectors and line terminators that are activated (V1 cannot count very well so 3 terminators is the same as 2 at that level.)
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    *There are about 6 fundamental characteristics of verbal sounds. p and b are mainly different phonetically in that one is "voiced." Both are "plosive" (lips suddenly part at the start of their sounds), etc. I forget what the other four basics features are and are called, but a few of them have to do with what your tongue is doing. I.e. your brain breaks down phonemes into basic "features" just as it does the visual inputs. If you know old "List" programs and logic, it is sort of like that.

    This immediate deconstruction is (or should be) a great embarrassment to accepted cognitive science’s POV that perception is "emergent" as no where are these features ever brought back together physically in the brain to be the basis of our unified perceptual experience. I am a "crackpot" in cognitive science, but I can explain perception and many things they cannot, with my "real time simulation" in parietal brain. For more details, see:

    http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=1294496&postcount=52
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2008
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Most people form most of their thoughts in words. (Obvious exceptions being musicians, sculptors, etc.) Our thoughts are both shaped and limited by the forms and vocabulary of our language, although expert opinions differ widely on the degree of this impact.

    The structure of Chinese is markedly different from English, which of all the languages I've studied is the closest to Chinese in structure. Chinese has no inflections, which means a speaker is free to not be concerned with the aspects of the things and actions he is thinking about if they have no bearing on the subject of discourse. A Chinese can say "teacher eat fish" without caring whether it is one teacher or more than one, one fish or more than one, whether the eating is taking place now, in the past or in the future, whether it is completed or in progress. Or, as in some languages, whether it is a male or female teacher, or, as in some languages, whether the teacher is the social superior, peer or inferior to the speaker. I am convinced that this allows you to streamline your thoughts and focus on the things that are important to your conversation.

    Furthermore, Chinese has a stripped-down syntax with only two parts of speech: nouns and verbs. It does not have nearly meaningless noise words like articles, and it does not force the speaker to express every conceivable type of relationship with a set of twenty or thirty prepositions that are left over from the Stone Age. Again, this allows the speaker to concentrate on what he is trying to say rather than the rules about how he must say it. Relationships can be expressed with great precision, using the entire vocabulary of nouns and verbs; English has only recently begun experimenting with this paradigm, in preposition-free coinages such as user-friendly, cable-ready, cost-effective and fuel-efficient. I am convinced that this gives you greater freedom in analyzing the relationships between people, things and activities.

    This lack of prepositions even helps you order your thoughts by ordering your sentences more logically. Instead of saying, "I went TO school WITH Sue ON the bus AFTER breakfast," you say, "I EAT breakfast JOIN Sue RIDE bus ATTEND school."

    Finally, since tone is phonemic in Chinese, speakers are very limited in the amount of emotion they can express with tone. They must think consciously about how they feel and express it in words. I am convinced this gives you greater introspective ability and a better understanding of your own emotional reactions and dynamics. It also minimizes misunderstandings.

    So yes, I think you are going to enhance your cognitive ability by being able to think in two quite different languages. Your brain is almost completely developed physiologically, but the programming of your synapses can always be enriched.
     
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