Visual Crowding and the tone orthography of African languages
The effect of Crowding has long been recognised by cognitive psychologists engaged in examining the reading process. Yet it is not generally taken into account by most field linguists involved in the development of tone orthographies for emerging African languages. True, there is a general recognition that diacritic overload is unhelpful, but this has never been articulated with the help of the more precise terminology already on offer from the field of cognitive psychology. Using an experimental tone orthography developed for Kabiye (Gur, Togo) as an example, I postulate that an exhaustive representation of tone by means of accents will trigger Crowding. This is a hypothesis that has yet to be tested under clinical conditions. But the aim of this article is to call the phenomenon by its name for the first time and thereby stimulate further research. I also hope to demonstrate by means of this single example the gulf that exists between cognitive psychology and linguistics. Once we recognise that the gulf exists, we can begin to build bridges.
Keywords: tone marking, tone language, diacritic, African languages, Visual Crowding
Published online: 18 August 2009
Cited by 3 other publications
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