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Proof that you can read without subvocalization are ideographic languages such as Chinese (especially the traditional variety), where the written text and the 'vocalization' are not directly related - it is possible to understand a passage of text based on the relation of the characters to each other and the appearance of characters themselves (e.g. the radicals used and the parts within) without actually knowing how each character is pronounced.



My personal experience studying Japanese for a few years makes me skeptical of this claim. Granted, the radicals, etc in the symbols can give you a hint of their meaning, but ultimately a writing system is created to communicate vocalized words.

In fact, many of the "hints" in the written symbols are based on words that sound similar to other words when pronounced (their actual meaning being unrelated), which is fully lost if you cut out the vocalization. As another point, most words are written with multiple symbols, and the meaning of the overall word may be rather different than the words you would get if you read the symbols individually. At that point, I don't see any difference from a word written with an alphabet like English.


You and the poster below mention Japanese as an example. I counter by saying that Japanese use of Kanji is very different than the Chinese use. I am a native Chinese speaker and have taken Japanese classes, and their vocalization in the language are very different. Japanese places a heavy emphasis on how the characters are pronounced because their language is not purely ideographic; rather they use a hybrid phonetic and ideographic system which forces the reader to vocalize sentences including the Kanji characters.

I posit that if you were a native Chinese speaker, you could skim (or speed read as claimed in the article) without any subvocalization and still understand the given passage.


Hm...fair enough. I'm still skeptical, honestly, but I don't know enough about Chinese specifically to argue with that. I do see your point about Japanese being a mixture of systems.


This is not proof.

Come back when you've hooked up NASA's subvocalization detector to a Chinese man and seen it register nothing while s/he reads.


That was my first thought too. I learned a few kanji, and it seemed magical how meaning could just appear in my head. But there is a comment[1] on Wikipedia, citing a book saying that the process is still there in full effect for native users.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Subvocalization#Subvocaliz...


Even if you don't know how to pronounce a word, you might subvocalize (I do) using an incorrect pronunciation.




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