i say part one of infinity because just the thought of trying to “summarize” my relationship with and experience of language in one post was beyond overwhelming. so i will just write the things that come to mind now, and when i run out of things i remember right now, i will stop. and later, i’ll pick up this train of thought again. and, to be clear, i really don’t consider language to be defined by speech/writing/signing whatsoever. i relate to words (spoken or written) as if they are one more sensory object in my environment. but it so happens that spoken, and especially written, language have been a huge part of my life for as long as i can remember. so that is mostly what i will talk about now.
i’m going to try to not feel self-conscious about sharing my abilities (or my disabilities). so first, i lay out data. each bit tucked close around my chest, like number armor over a ribcage of paper.
weschler (wais iv)
- verbal comprehension index: 149 (similarities–18, vocabulary–19, information–17)
- processing speed index: 102 (symbol search–9, coding–12)
wj iii (academic skill assessments)
- reading fluency: 139
- writing fluency: 98
- math fluency: 90
age when i said my first word: 11 months. age when i started speaking in full sentences: 15 months. age when i started reading: unknown. age when i started reading chapter books: unknown. age when i tried to read shakespeare for the first time: 8. age when i switched to only reading novels written for adults: 10. age when i first tried to read paradise lost: 12. age when i first tried to read foucault: 16. number of languages i’ve studied: four. number of times per day i’d ask to do a spelling test in elementary school: three or more. dictionaries my family owned: zero. number of years the honors english track at my high school rejected me: three. number of times i almost flunked a semester of high school english: two. number of years it’s taken me to develop legible handwriting: TBD. number of times i’ve been told my ideas were inferior because i lacked verbal fluency: i’ve lost count. average number of book/article pages i read per week now: 500-1000. number of times i need to have seen a word to remember it: once.
i’ve ran out of data (today) now. what’s next.
i live, and love, in the kinesthetic, periodic aspects of speech–instead of perfect pitch, i have perfect tempo, and the layers of physical and metric structure spread out like a fan in my lungs. i can still hyperlexic-read poetry and verse without any comprehension, keeping perfect rhythm and emphasis (at freakish speeds). i can rhyme anything, and run through tangents and chains of rhymed words like water. i pick up accents and speech patterns without thinking. i can distinguish between sub-dialects i’ve never heard before of languages i can’t understand.
at the same time, i can’t retain proper nouns to save my life. i forget my relative’s names. i’ve recently started to mix up the words “bagel” and “muffin,” so that i’ll look at a bagel, know it’s a bagel, and say out loud “i should really eat that muffin.” i have minimal verbal short-term memory–i can keep maybe a clause at a time active mentally, and couldn’t talk in a straight line if i tried. if given too broad a prompt, or asked too broad a question, i’m unable to generate an answer whatsoever. i’m bad at grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and am the least efficient/accurate touch-typer of all time. when writing a single sentence, i usually accidentally switch tense or subject at least twice, and have to go back to correct every sentence. when writing by hand, i’m a three-ring circus.
the most distinctive aspects of language processing, for me, are those that happen entirely inside my head. i process language non-verbally. as a child i did not understand what difference there was supposed to be between the definition and the connotation of a word. now i understand what the difference is supposed to be, i just think it’s total bull. a word is a world: a place with sound and heft and movement (all three of these senses, for me, are intimately linked) texture and shape. the sensory features of the word are it’s connotation-definition, and serve as qualitative facets of meaning that situate the word in relation to all the other words i know. the different meanings of words are just different perspectives on the same point–like the numbered faces on a die. flip, flip, flip, flip, roll, and we can move through them all in stop-motion.
i love the word “catch”: i catch a ball, you catch a glimpse, the catch on a box, there’s a catch, catch me if you can, i got caught in traffic, he’s caught up in it all, my skirt got caught on a old nail and ripped straight through, she’s a catch. [i can feel the moving of hands, the tension of contact, the resistance, the open mechanism of a lock, a snapshot holding touch]
and for now, this is all that i know. happy friday :).
I’m about seven years old, wearing a pink and white sweatshirt and standing off to the side of some sort of walking trail in a forest somewhere. I’m clutching what is obviously The Stick (TM) of the day–finding the perfect walking-stick-sword-staff was basically the never-ending quest of my childhood. Because duh.