The Pysholcgoy of Lganugae

Something to Ponder: Aoccdrnig to rscheearch 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 ltteres be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe. According to research at Cambridge University, it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letters be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without a problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.

Bird Reading.bmpYou may have seen the above paragraph circulating on the internet in 2003. That year, it became a wildly popular phenomenon, showing up in translated versions of at least 16 different languages. It sparked many debates about the scientific meaning behind it, although as it turned out, the paragraph is just another urban legend. Nevertheless, the amount of attention it received shows just how facinated people are about the process of reading. Psycholinguists, who study the psychology of language, were quick to note that there are both truths and untruths in the paragraph. Not every jumbled word whose first and last letters are kept the same is easy to read, for example. How about “magltheuansr” or “inmcoes”? The reason we can read the above paragraph fairly easily has more to do with the fact that the sentences and words have been manipulated on purpose. We can figure out short jumbled words and we also rely on the presence of function words such as “be” and “the”, to keep things clear.

Check out this psycholinguist’s link to read more about the jumbled paragraph. If you scroll down to just below “Update 2?, you will see some example sentences that debunk what the paragraph claims, as well as references to current research on what information we use when reading. By the way, if you’re still puzzled, the jumbled words are “manslaughter” and “incomes”.

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