Reading without moving your lips

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Fraggle Rocker, Jun 8, 2007.

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Only the actual sound production is slow; the mental preliminaries, which are what is involved here, are as fast as any other mental event - including comprehension of read words.

    You "hear" sounds in your head that have not been physically generated in the outer world, true? You mentally generated those sounds, at the speed of thought. Your brain can generate sounds faster than you can read.
     
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  3. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    How is this known? or are you guessing?

    It seems false to me, because if it were true, than I should be able to silently "hear" myself speak several hundred words per minute. (more than 50 times my normal vocalization speed.) I tried but was not even able to double the rate.

    Too few people separate their opinions from facts. I know a lot of facts, yet most of my posts include: (I think)
     
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Wow. All of the linguistic articles I've read insist that Flemish satifies the defintion of a "dialect" of Dutch--that the two are mutually comprehensible, instantly for many people. Were you not able to understand spoken Flemish before you started studying it? We're told that the reason Flemish is sometimes called a separate language is strictly politics, to bring more attention to the Flemish separatist movement in Belgium. I'm assuming you're fluent in Dutch, from your other posts.
    Somewhere on SciForums is posted the experiment on this topic. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. We are able to read words with the correct first and last letter; all the ones in between can be scrambled as long as they are present and correct.
    Our speech center is much faster than our vocal apparatus. I've read that people have no trouble understanding recorded English played back with digital equipment at 250wpm, with the correct pitch and the phoneme durations individually adjusted so that all can be heard. I don't know what the upper limit is.
    Well my whole point was that we no longer move our mouths. The question is whether we process the words through our vocal center, silently.
    I'm guessing you learned Spanish when you were an adult or older adolescent? I had my first class when I was 11 and I read it the same way I read English and at the same speed. I suppose I'm fluent in Spanish by my own rating system, at least 7.5 with a vocabulary of at least 6,000 words. And I'm fluent by the only other rigorous definition I've seen: I know I think in Spanish because I have dreamed in Spanish.

    The cornerstone of my thesis was that people who learn a writing system at too advanced of an age may have lost the ability to read words without first translating them into sounds. This is my proposed explanation for why people in earlier eras, before education in childhood was widespread, had to read aloud or at least silently to themselves.
    Yes, but I would think that completely bypassing the speech center and having some other method of reading could have an effect on the way we understand and react to the sentences. I'd like to explore this with the people who have said they don't form sound images mentally. I just have no idea what questions to ask.

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  7. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Why do you think we need to use the speech center in order to read? I use the speech center to write, because I can "hear" the words as I write them, however, when I am reading, it is a completely different process.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I'm not exactly saying that we "need" it. You've proven that we don't, since at least some portion of the human race is apparently perfectly capable of reading without it. I'm only saying it's also apparent that a great many of us "use" it and can't conceive of a way to read without it.

    When I see a written text, the sound of someone speaking those words simply pops into my head unbidden. Whether it's a book I'm reading, a billboard that zooms by while I'm driving, the slogan on somebody's t-shirt, or a shred of newspaper lying upside down on the sidewalk that my eye happens to glance at... the spoken words form in my head instantly, without my control. I can't make it stop and until rather recently it never even occurred to me that I might want it to.

    What I can't imagine is how I would read without this. If I saw a group of letters forming a word, and the spoken word did not pop into my mind, I don't understand what method I would use to determine the meaning of the word, much less the sentence.

    All of my thoughts are in spoken words, unless I'm composing or rehearsing music. I suppose I can look at a sunrise and get a basic sense of "pretty" or "morning," and if my shoelace is untied I can probably retie it without describing the process step by step. But if there's a bunny-rabbit outside the fence standing quietly and my dog is inside the fence facing the other way, not seeing him, and there's the potential of a humorous situation when he eventually turns around and realizes there's a bunny over there... well that sentence I just typed is running through my head, in spoken English. Although without the editing and proofreading.

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  9. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    What makes you say this?
    What accounts are you talking about, and if there are only a few what makes you assume that this was true for everyone?
     
  10. whitewolf asleep under the juniper bush Registered Senior Member

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    When I was studying English, I was a lazy learner. I learned words from literature, memorized how they looked, but didn't bother figuring out how those words would be pronounced. My first language is Russian, I then learned Hebrew and Latvian; in these languages, there are few or no silent letters, letters are mostly pronounced the way they are in the alphabet, there are none or very few two- or three-letter combinations to make single sounds, so reading is easy. It took me a lot longer to learn how to pronounce the English words I would see correctly. However, I easily remembered how to spell words (I have a very good visual memory). As a result, there are still many words in English language which I know how to write but don't even try to pronounce. Same with French: I won't twist my tongue to say Courvoisier, but I'll write it correctly each time. In my mind, when I read Courvoisier, I don't bother with pronouncing it; I simply recognize it. As a result, my speech differs drastically from my writing in vocabulary.

    Yes, writing is a completely different process. When I become very concentrated on reading, I no longer pronounce but merely recognize words. When I am very concentrated on an activity, I don't hear surrounding sounds. I don't know whether it speeds me up or slows me down, I have never measured my reading speed. My mind always pronounces as I write (except the words I don't know how to pronounce; I simply pull them out of my memory whenever the need arises). However, I write slower than I speak, so pronouncing doesn't slow me down; on the contrary, it speeds me up and makes my writing more effective.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2007
  11. Avatar smoking revolver Valued Senior Member

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    I read since I was 1 year and 7 months old, and I always vocalize the words in my head, both in my native tongue and in other languages as well.
    If I don't do that it feels as if I have read the information, but it hasn't set in my mind, I can't make sense of it, put it in context.
    I don't ever move my lips.
     
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Check out my links, that I included with that post, for two sources.

    I would guess the only place you could find a set of people who reliably read without activating the sound processing areas of their brains would be among the congenitally deaf. As far as speakers claiming they don't - I read very fast, and could easily overlook the aural/oral registration symbiosis that accompanies my reading of a word if I were not deliberately and with difficulty aware that a set of rhyming or doggerel syllables will stand out if present, that consonants with similar vocal production mechanisms will more often pass unnoticed in typos than consonants with much different ones, that even very bad misspellings are often easily read (the sound registers, rather than the visual image), that for me tongue twisters are harder to read than more easily pronounced prose, etc.
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Well naturally I can't find my source and will have to keep looking.
    I shouldn't malign Plato and Cicero. My own hypothesis is that by learning to read when we were all six years old (or five for you kids who all had mandatory kindergarten, we got an extra year of carefree childhood instead

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    ) we were able to develop a cognitive skill that people who learn later in life simply cannot. After all, all learning abilities related to language tend to drop off markedly in late adolescence for most people--that's why we scream at American parents to enroll their children in foreign language classes so when the Chinese take over the world economy they'll have an easier time with Chinese.

    Children were not barraged with education in ancient times. However, Plato and Cicero (I actually know nothing of their personal lives) may have been exceptions who were taught literacy in early childhood and therefore read like we do.
    I seem to recall that the references were oblique. For example, an abbot could tell whether his monks were doing their work and reading, because if they were daydreaming their lips would not be moving. I'll keep looking.
    I didn't mean to imply that I regard people who don't subvocalize as more intelligent than the rest of us. (Perish the thought!) Simply that they may respond to what they read differently from the rest of us because the way they read is different.
     
  14. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    I read once that Gaius Marius used to speak out loud as he read while Gaius Julius Caesar read quickly in his head.

    Also, didn't the ancient Greeks initially write both from left to right as well as from right to left?


    Fraggle Rocker,

    How are you going with the kanji? Are you learning Chinese or Japanese? Self taught or schooled?

    Michael


    Oh yeah, I read English in my mind. Japanese I read words I recognize quickly in my mind and the kanji I read mentally - but words I do not know that are written in hiragana I try to sound out loud.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I think I read that somewhere too. You can still find Chinese written both ways, as well as top to bottom. Direction wasn't always as important as it is in the age of printing and computers. As someone pointed out on another thread, it's more important to the writer than to the reader, having to do with the particular writing tool as well as right- or left-handedness. I find it trivial to read mirror images, and I'm sure most of us who work in offices have long ago developed the ability to read upside down from the papers on our boss's desks. Now I'm not sure I could do it so easily in Spanish, and I can't really do it at all in a non-Roman alphabet.
    I'm not actively learning han zi, which tells you which language I studied.

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    I took a class in Mandarin almost forty years ago, and we learned a few characters but the emphasis was on conversation. Since then I've hung out with a lot of Chinese people (easy to do in L.A., even in those days), learned more words and became fluent in what I know. I had a girlfriend from Sichuan for a couple of years and I got her to speak Chinese around the house to help me, whenever practical. So I tend to speak with a Sichuan accent, or Shicuan as they say. I rate myself in the low 6's on my scale. I can probably write a few dozen characters and read a hundred or two, not really enough to even figure out what a store sells from its sign. I'm too old to bother learning more now. The Chinese will adopt a phonetic writing system before I learn to read the bare minimum 1,200 of what they've got.

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    I suspected that a foreigner might learn to read kanji without even knowing how the words are pronounced. Same for Hebrew without the vowels.
     
  16. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    I enjoy studying the Chinese characters - I can write about 1000 kanji. But I don't study their pronunciation only their stroke order and English meaning. It's kind of fun to read a sign in China Town and have an idea about what's inside the store or on the menu.

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    As tot he moving lips I wonder if people who read while moving their lips type while moving their lips?
     
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    If I remember what I read in a recent article correctly, that would almost qualify you as "literate" in China. I think people with four years of elementary school are assumed to know 1,200 characters, and that's the standard they use for their national literacy statistics. That way they get to count millions of people in rural areas who had four years of school but don't keep in practice so they are now in fact illiterate. That's the advantage of an alphabet, you only have to remember a couple of dozen characters. I wonder whether anyone has ever lost the ability to read English or any language with a phonetic alphabet, simply from lack of practice.
    I wonder if anybody who moves his lips while he reads ever learned to type.

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    Uh oh, I probably just set us up for a scroll of "blonde jokes."

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  18. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Q: Why was the blondes' belly button sore ?
    A: Because her boyfriend was blonde too.

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    I use a couple books to study the Characters but this is the main method I use. It's taken about 18 months to get to 1000 and my goal is 2050. After I make some flash cards I only study them during breaky and then again between sets at the gym

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    Heisig's is the best method for learning the meaning for sure.


    Remembering the Kanji I
     
  19. Zephyr Humans are ONE Registered Senior Member

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    So do you mentally hear the English words while reading them?

    I learned to read Greek a while ago but know virtually no vocabulary. I think I can still read it phonetically (slowly) but I've forgotten the few exceptions to phonetic pronunciation. They might take a few minutes to relearn.
     
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Sure. I only run across something in the Hebrew alphabet every few years but I can still decipher it. One girl I ran into on the sidewalk looked at me askance when she saw me staring at her t-shirt. But then when she noticed my lips moving she smiled and stood still, while I puzzled out "University of Jerusalem" and filled in the missing vowels.

    I'm a little better with Cyrillic but still it helps if the words aren't moving. Considerably more adept with the Greek alphabet, I guess I learned that one when I was around thirteen. I don't exactly have a vocabulary but it's amazing how much Greek we all know from borrowed words in English. When I was in Thessaloniki, standing in front of a building whose sign read Hellenikos Ethnikos Trapezion, I got a chuckle when I quickly realized it was the Greek National Bank.
     
  21. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    yes, unless I know the Japanese word then I would mentally hear the Japanese word and somewhere else the meaning (for example "white car") would be simultaneously occurring.

    Or so it seems....
     

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