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Linguistic Causes Of Dyscalculia?

Graduate school applications periodically ask you to enter medium-length strings of numbers which code for one horrible bureaucratic thing or another, so I was entering the code for Stanford University — 101764 — when I had some of the usual trouble transposing numbers, and had to correct myself. I could very clearly see that the last three digits ran 7-6-4, but I entered it as 6-7-4 twice before I got it right.

I was vaguely aware that I had been saying them wrong to myself in my head. Had I simply allowed my visual understanding of and response to the symbols to take over, I could probably have typed in the numbers correctly. Suddenly it struck me that the problem might be that my language center had taken over, and maybe I was performing a linguistic correction in my head.

Why? “Six-seven-four” sounds better than “seven-six-four.” Try it — the sound you get when saying the former is “sickseven,” which is easier to say than “sevensix.”

Cobbling together some half-baked ideas from Steve Weisler and Neil Stillings’s ever-popular, fan-fucking-tastic introduction to linguistics class, here’s my reasoning: Not all English words pluralized by adding an S are spoken as if there is an S at the end. Words that end in voiced consonants are pronounced as if there is a Z (I don’t remember what the teeth are called — would that be a voiced dental fricative?) at the end: “Liam’s dogs eat cans” would be pronounced “Liam’z dogz eat canz,” not “Liam’ss dogss eat canss.” “Seven,” like “can,” ends in an N (a voiced velar glide?), so speakers of English might be expected to correct themselves when faced with an S following “seven.”

Could my overdeveloped language skills really be making that drastic a jump — actually rearranging word order — to correct a minor incidence of dissonance? Were the same skills that raised my verbal SAT scores also dragging down my math scores?

OK, so now that I’ve worked around to this part of the argument I find my half-remembered theories and misused jargon aren’t really supporting my point, which is seeming increasingly rickety. Perhaps the claim shouldn’t rest on ideas about pluralization; maybe there’s other linguistic theories about word order and euphony that could be called into play. It just seemed to explain my problem with transposing numbers better than a simple diagnosis of dyscalculia; I’ve never actually seen the numbers out of order, just read them out of order.

Any thoughts?

Confidential to hahaha and Sammy: here’s your picture:

d00d u had betr r33d up… or mayB $tart w/a dictionareee… bcuz Strunk 0wnz j00r 3l33t a$$ez yo…


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