24 July 2011

Another example of language as a reflective act

On Thursday I was maybe even more unfocused than usual, thanks to a very sore hand, but I hope I made a clear enough point.

I tried to show that when we recieve language, our perception is affected by what we expect to hear.  Unfortunately I only had examples from the written mode, because it's impossible to see into someone else's head and hear their perception of spoken language.

Well, chance has smiled upon me and given me a spoken example just in the nick of time.  I've often regretted not getting good at Italian -- it's a language I feel like I should know already, but it's so difficult for me to use it at full speed.  I decided recently that I should dedicate a bit more time to it.

And so it happened that this morning I was listening to an Italian radio station on-line, and not understanding hellish much of it, but catching the odd word.  One word I heard was obviamente... but there's no such word in Italian!  The guy on the radio had actually said ovviamente, and on a pure physical sound level that is what I heard, but my immediate subconscious reaction was to here the more familiar BV consonant cluster -- ovviamente is Italian for obviously, after all.

This presumably worked so smoothly because of Italian's consonant gemination -- consonants written double are lengthened.  This doesn't happen in English, so it makes no automatic sense to my brain. It also meant that there was time in the word for the B that my brain felt was missing.

My brain altered the received input to give perceived input that matched my internal model, so I have to work on improving the internal model rather then simply receiving more input.

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