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edward long

Association of Old Crows

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Why do we bother with spelling?

Unlike chess, in spelling the middle game is irrelevant. All that matters is the right choice at the beginning and the end. The middle letters, which must be the correct set of letters, can be completely jumbled and the reader will not be confused. To wit: "Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe." How can this little known God-given ability of the human brain be exercised to simplify, and perhaps improve, our lives? Any ttguhohs you cveelr TED fklos?

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Closing Statement from edward long

OK. OK. Spelling is important and we should continue to teach it and all the rules associated with it to those learning how to read, speak, and write our language. From Silverstein to Shakespeare; from subjects like cryptography and dyslexia, this debate was spirited and very much worth while. From the Netherlands to China we TEDsters hashed-out our feelings on this skill we call Language. It makes sense that the subject of written communication would interest TED folks, after all, what is more crucial to TED Conversations than wtitten communication? I asked two questions. Both were answered. We bother with spelling because it permits standardized rules of written communication. And, the only possible beneficial application for the remarkable ability of the human brain to unjumble familiar words almost as fast as reading correctly spelled words is to jumble words as a way to draw attention to them and add emphasis. We learned the idea of jumbling and unjumbling words is known in the academic world as TYPOGLYCEMIA, and THE JUMBLING EFFECT. Taht's all floks!

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    May 4 2013: spelling is a noise-reduction strategy.
    It clarifies communication - but it is local.

    Locality is constrained by the field of perception.
    If you can only perceive the united states you will spell "color"
    If I was an Englishman many years ago it would be "Colour"
    If my countrymen were to spell it, it would be "cula".
    But we pretend we are old Englishmen - spell check allows us to speak to Americans and Englishmen.
    Computer technology is not advancing us - it is retarding us.
    Technology is not what we assume it to be .. and the world is waiting .. looking at its watch and tapping its foot - louder and louder.
    TXT is not helping a lot.
    It will all break shortly, and the tower will scatter the tongues.
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      May 4 2013: Thanks Mitch for the comments. FYI BFF, the current TED Talk by McWhorter says TXT is helping a lot and we should embrace it LOL.
      I agree locality in time and geography matters in spelling, but isn't this phenomenon (apparently named Typoglycemia, or The Scrambler Effect) applicable to all letter-based written languages regardless of location? For example: "Mi csaa es su csaa." You anticipate Babel Redux? Good on ya mate!
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        May 5 2013: Babel redux!! nice!

        Here's the paradox - the children must create the language of their time .. I did it as a kid, and the kids are doing it now .. I think Sapolsky had something to say about that.

        But since I was a Kid I encountered a new thing(to me) - tradition. The bones for the flesh.
        The spelling thing forms part of the bones - but the flesh is the kids - the TXT and whatever - it has its moment .. As I observed in the McWhorter thread - TXT is doomed to disappear very shortly because it demands unusual thumb-skills - it will be replaced by facial expressions transmitted over visual media - facial expressions are part of the genome and require no special skill - the kids will add some hand gestures or utterances to identify themselves - just as words are used now - idioms.
        The traditional written word .. as bones .. will break when they are applied to stresses they are not prepared to bear .. branches will break, but with them a lot of leaves will fall - but the trunk will remain (I hope) .. at least a stump .. there wasn't much left from the last fall.
        When traditional language falls it is the result of isolation.

        One is tempted to look at why too much communication leads to isolation.
        But when you look around - that is what we are going towards - do you know the names of your physical neighbours?
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          May 5 2013: Thank you Prophet SMith! Every generation adds words to the collective vocabulary and some words atrophy and disappear from everywhere but the isolated world of the lexicographer where they are labeled "Archaic". You predict unspoken/unwritten communication? How very animalistic! How brute! What a tragic devolution! I do have to agree though that the trend in verbal language seems to be downward no matter what McWhorter says.IMHO.L8R.
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      May 4 2013: "and the tower will scatter the tongues"

      Again?
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        May 5 2013: yes - unless we "get it".

        There's a chance we will.

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