June 07, 2004

Conservation of gemination: another example

Gene Buckley emailed:

In another good example of orthographic gemination, I was just reading something that contained the well-attested spelling "dissapointed", which also seems to partake of the feeling of a zero-sum transfer of doubling.

Google has 298,000 for "dissapointed", more than twice the 130,000 for "dissappointed" with two doubled letters. The correct spelling has over 4 million.

Gene added that

Interestingly, "apointed" is quite uncommon (6,850), supporting the view that the doubled "ss" in the longer word plays a crucial role.

and ended by asking

I wonder how rare a hit has to be in order to be statistically indistinguishable from a
recurrent typo, rather than an intended (though erroneous) spelling.

I'm not sure that this dichotomy is really dichotomous. I'm sure that there are some cases where a wrong spelling is just a careless slip of the fingers (or the brain), which the perpetrator knows well to be wrong and recognizes immediately in proofreading. At the other end of the continuum are stubbornly held wrong opinions about how something should be spelled. But in between there are many gradations, and in fact several dimensions of error with many gradations each.

Gene's note refers back to previous Language Log posts here, here, here and (originally) here.

Posted by Mark Liberman at June 7, 2004 05:09 PM