Friday, September 5, 2008


Since I first encountered the term in the autism literature, I figured I was probably hyperlexic. After all, I have a humongous vocabulary* and have always read and written compulsively. No-brainer, right? Hyperlexia: too much language!

This definition makes it look less like anything I've got: my ability to get the gist of a passage has always matched my vocabulary, and the wiki stipulates that general comprehension must lag word recognition. Now, the American Hyperlexia Association's webpage says that the diagnostically relevant discrepancy is between written and spoken language --- and, indeed, I retain much more of, and notice finer details in, what I read than what I hear. Similarly, I am far more articulate in print than I am in person or on the phone. Some of it is because I can take more time in choosing the words, but in media like instant messaging the advantage in editing is negligible. Yes, you can proofread and rephrase before you send an IM, but the conversation is happening in real time, so you can hardly spend a day picking just the right synonym for "ridiculous" that adequately renders all the subtle shades of contempt and exasperation you want to convey. (Not that anyone I know has ever spent a day doing that ...)

There is also an enlightening discussion of hyperlexia in the comments on this post of Ballastexistenz's.

*I've gotten to Level 50 on Free Rice, and typically hover around Levels 47-49. I also got a 770 on the Verbal SAT; the three questions I missed were all sentence-ordering questions.

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