Why do people make mistakes?

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Have you visited Tees Nork? Do you have a stomach ache? What bagged dog food will we get?

If you’ve ever wondered about the causes of these speech errors or slips, you might know that all speakers—of all ages and abilities—make them at times. Even people who use sign language produce what some call “wobble”. Mistakes are a common feature of language.

As a developmental psycholinguist who studies how people use language, i I wonder what they tell us about speech errors the human mind. Research shows that language users store and retrieve different units of language. These range from small, like single consonants, to large, like multi-word phrases.

Exchanging and blending sounds and words

One way to think about speech errors is in terms of the linguistic units that make up each one. Another way to think about them is in terms of the actions that affect those units.

Yew Nork” tab shows that the consonant sounds change places – sound exchange. Note that each consonant comes first in its syllable. “bagged dog food” slip shows the exchange of words. Note that both words are nouns. Vowel sounds can also change places, for example, when a speaker who meant “feed the dog” said: “food peach.”

tawny” slip combines the synonyms “belly” and “belly”. Phrases can also be mixed up, as in “It depends on what day I’m in the mood for.” The speaker who said this meant both “the day of the week” and “my mood,” but with only one mouth to convey the two messages, he mixed up the phrases.

Substitutions by meaning

Another way to think about speech errors is in terms of what affects them. Substituting one word for another can be an illustration.

Someone who meant fingers said instead: “Don’t burn your toes.” The words “finger” and “toe” don’t sound the same, but they refer to similar parts of the body. In fact, Latin uses the same word, “digitus,” for fingers and toes.

This substitution of words—and thousands of similar ones—suggests that our mental vocabularies associate words with closely related meanings. In other words, semantic connections can influence speech errors. The speaker here was trying to retrieve the word “toe” from the body parts section of his mental dictionary and went to its semantic neighbor “toe.”

Substitutions by sound

Another type of word substitution reveals something else about our mental vocabularies. Someone referring to his mustache said instead:I got whipped cream on my mushrooms.” The words “mustache” and “mushroom” sound similar. Each word begins with the same consonant and vowel, which are denoted as “[mʌ]”in International phonetic alphabet. Each word consists of two syllables with the stress on the first syllable. But the meanings of these two words are not similar.

This substitution of words—and thousands of similar ones—suggests that our mental vocabularies also associate words with similar sounds. In other words, phonological connections can influence speech errors. The speaker here was trying to get the word “mustache” from “[mʌ]” section of his mental vocabulary and moved on to its phonological neighbor “mushroom”.

Ideas from diversity

Psycholinguists who collect and analyze speech errors find many ways to classify them and explain how and why people do them.

I like to compare these efforts to how Charles Darwin studied Galapagos finches. A close study of speech bugs and finches shows how tiny variations set them apart.

Theories of how people communicate seek to explain these details. Psycholinguists distinguish errors by the linguistic units they involve, such as consonants, vowels, words, and phrases. They describe how and when speakers use such information. This can help us understand how language develops in children and how it breaks down in people with certain disabilities.

These theories also describe different stages for planning and producing proposals. For example, psycholinguists believe that columns start with what they want to convey. They then retrieve word meanings from a mental dictionary. They arrange words according to the grammar of the language they speak. how words the sound and rhythm of whole sentences are later stages. If correct, the “finger” replacement reflects an earlier stage than the “mustache-mushroom” replacement.

The study of speech errors reminds us that failures happen from time to time in every complex behavior. When you walk, you sometimes stumble. When you talk, you sometimes slip up.


How our brain affects language change


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