A long time ago I noticed that even though I’m much more comfortable with simplified characters than I am with complex-form characters, I find columnar Chinese to be much more comfortable to read than horizontally printed Chinese when it comes to avoiding eye strain, brain strain, and the problem of losing my place in a text.
So I was particularly interested to hear about Live Ink, a new system for parsing and formatting (English) text to maximize readability and retention. Apparently the word recognition studies that the company did showed that people tend to focus on a small group of words in any given line, with the preceing and following lines in peripheral vision, and that readers tended to focus on individual verbs or clauses. The system takes text and breaks it into smaller, more easily readable chunks, staggers them across the page, and (in some of the demos I’ve seen) colors verbs to set them apart further. There are some demos on the product site.
This strikes me as something that would be really helpful to me as a reader of Chinese – though I suppose the sentence parsing could be harder in Chinese than in English. (Though then again, the system seems mostly to be breaking things into smaller chunks, rather than identifying what function the individual chunks are serving.) Perhaps I should bug David to implement this in Adso.
Also, because I can’t resist, with apologies to e.e. cummings:
Walker Reading Technologies' released what promises to break text into easilyreadable chunks and stagger the lines onetwothreefourfive acrossthepage Jesus that's a cool idea and what i want to know is how do you like your new textformatting system Mister Linguist