Orientation-dependent ambiguity

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A striking example of orientation-dependent visual ambiguity:

Since speech is effectively one-dimensional, the only direct forms of orientation-dependent speech perception are time-reversal and spectral inversion, which require technological intervention.

But in writing, orientation-dependent perception is easy to arrange, and has a name, namely ambigrams. I don't recall every having seen an accidental ambigram, that is, a piece of text that reads differently upside down without the creator being aware of it. At least, not one where the ambiguity depends on properties of the font or script design.

Since natural speech errors cause local phonological permutations, anticipations, and perseverations, you could stretch a point and think of such mutations as an abstract form of orientation-dependence. And ambiguities thus implied are sometimes a form of communication — see e.g. "Noi lai and contrepets", 1/8/2005.

By the way, the start of the Vietnamese Wikipedia article on Nói lái

Nói lái (còn gọi là nói trại) là một cách nói kiểu chơi chữ của dân Việt. Đối với từng vùng miền khác nhau thì do cách nói của tiếng địa phương nên tiếng nói lái sẽ có thay đổi một chút.

Nói lái được coi là ít nghiêm trang, có tính cách bông đùa, mỉa mai hoặc châm biếm.

is rendered this way by Google Translate, showing us again that machine translation has a few remaining problems to clear up:

Talking driver (also known as speaking camp) is a way of saying the word play style of the Vietnamese people. For different regions, due to the way of speaking in the local language, the driving voice will change a bit.

Speaking of driving is considered to be less serious, playful, sarcastic or sarcastic.

Bing translator doesn't do much better:

Said the driver (also known as Camp) is a way of speaking the Vietnamese word. For each of the different domains, due to the speaking of the local language, the speech steering will have a slight change.

Said the rider is considered to be less severe, having a personality joke, ironic or sarcastic.



  1. Victor Mair said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 10:20 am

    Arabic and Chinese ambigrams are discussed in this comment and in this post, also this post.

  2. Lóc Nguyễn said,

    December 31, 2018 @ 8:34 am

    The Vietname punning " nói lái " is actually Spoonerism, in which certain sounds are replaced each other in 2 or 3 words (syllables). For example " đi theo đảng" is changed to " đang theo đỉ"; in which the former phrase meaning " follow the party", the latter " following whores". I found a guy on FB applying this pun into English, posting: Come and " Sick my Duck ".

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