Speech error

A speech error, commonly referred to as a slip of the tongue[1] (Latin: lapsus linguae, or occasionally self-demonstratingly, lipsus languae) or misspeaking, is a deviation (conscious or unconscious) from the apparently intended form of an utterance.[2] They can be subdivided into spontaneously and inadvertently produced speech errors and intentionally produced word-plays or puns. Another distinction can be drawn between production and comprehension errors. Errors in speech production and perception are also called performance errors.[3] Some examples of speech error include sound exchange or sound anticipation errors. In sound exchange errors the order of two individual morphemes is reversed, while in sound anticipation errors a sound from a later syllable replaces one from an earlier syllable.[4] Slips of the tongue are a normal and common occurrence. One study shows that most people can make up to as much as 22 slips of the tongue per day.[5]

Speech errors are common among children, who have yet to refine their speech, and can frequently continue into adulthood. When errors continue past the age of 9 they are referred to as "residual speech errors" or RSEs.[6] They sometimes lead to embarrassment and betrayal of the speaker's regional or ethnic origins. However, it is also common for them to enter the popular culture as a kind of linguistic "flavoring". Speech errors may be used intentionally for humorous effect, as with spoonerisms.

Within the field of psycholinguistics, speech errors fall under the category of language production. Types of speech errors include: exchange errors, perseveration, anticipation, shift, substitution, blends, additions, and deletions. The study of speech errors has contributed to the establishment/refinement of models of speech production since Victoria Fromkin's pioneering work on this topic.[7]

Psycholinguistic explanations

Speech errors are made on an occasional basis by all speakers.[1] They occur more often when speakers are nervous, tired, anxious or intoxicated.[1] During live broadcasts on TV or on the radio, for example, nonprofessional speakers and even hosts often make speech errors because they are under stress.[1] Some speakers seem to be more prone to speech errors than others. For example, there is a certain connection between stuttering and speech errors.[8] Charles F. Hockett explains that "whenever a speaker feels some anxiety about possible lapse, he will be led to focus attention more than normally on what he has just said and on what he is just about to say. These are ideal breeding grounds for stuttering."[8] Another example of a "chronic sufferer" is Reverend William Archibald Spooner, whose peculiar speech may be caused by a cerebral dysfunction, but there is much evidence that he invented his famous speech errors (spoonerisms).[1]

A somewhat-outdated explanation for the occurrence of speech errors comes from Sigmund Freud, who assumed that speech errors are the result of an intrapsychic conflict of concurrent intentions.[1] "Virtually all speech errors [are] caused by the intrusion of repressed ideas from the unconscious into one's conscious speech output", Freud explained.[1] This gave rise to the expression Freudian slip. His hypothesis was rejected because it only explains a minority of speech errors.[1]

Psycholinguistic classification

There are few speech errors that clearly fall into only one category. The majority of speech errors can be interpreted in different ways and thus fall into more than one category.[9] For this reason, percentage figures for the different kinds of speech errors may be of limited accuracy.[10] Moreover, the study of speech errors gave rise to different terminologies and different ways of classifying speech errors. Here is a collection of the main types:

Types of speech errors
Type Definition Example
Addition "Additions add linguistic material."[1] Target: We
Error: We and I
Anticipation "A later segment takes the place of an earlier segment."[1] Target: reading list
Error: leading list
Blends Blends are a subcategory of lexical selection errors.[10] More than one item is being considered during speech production. Consequently, the two intended items fuse together.[1] Target: person/people
Error: perple
Deletion Deletions or omissions leave some linguistic material out.[1] Target: unanimity of opinion
Error: unamity of opinion
Exchange Exchanges are double shifts. Two linguistic units change places.[1] Target: getting your nose remodeled
Error: getting your model renosed
Lexical selection error The speaker has "problems with selecting the correct word".[10] Target: tennis racquet
Error: tennis bat
Malapropism, classical The speaker has the wrong beliefs about the meaning of a word. Consequently, he produces the intended word, which is semantically inadequate. Therefore, this is a competence error rather than a performance error. Malapropisms are named after 'Mrs. Malaprop', a character from Richard B. Sheridan’s eighteenth-century play The Rivals.[3] Target:The flood damage was so bad they had to evacuate the city.
Error: The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city.
Metathesis "Switching of two sounds, each taking the place of the other."[3] Target: pus pocket
Error: pos pucket
Morpheme-exchange error[10] Morphemes change places. Target: He has already packed two trunks.
Error: He has already packs two trunked.
Morpheme stranding Morphemes remain in place but are attached to the wrong words.[11] Target: He has already packed two trunks.
Error: He has already trunked two packs.
Omission cf. deletions Target: She can't tell me.
Error: She can tell me.
Perseveration "An earlier segment replaces a later item."[1] Target: black boxes
Error: black bloxes
Residual Speech Errors "Distortions of late-developing sounds such as /s/, /l/, and /r/."[6] Target: The box is red.

Error: The box is wed.

Shift "One speech segment disappears from its appropriate location and appears somewhere else."[1] Target: She decides to hit it.
Error: She decide to hits it.
Sound-exchange error Two sounds switch places.[10] Target: Night life [nait laif]
Error: Knife light [naif lait]
Spoonerism A spoonerism is a kind of metathesis. Switching of initial sounds of two separate words.[3] They are named after Reverend William Archibald Spooner, who probably invented most of his famous spoonerisms.[10] Target: I saw you light a fire.
Error: I saw you fight a liar.
Substitution One segment is replaced by an intruder. The source of the intrusion is not in the sentence.[1] Target: Where is my tennis racquet?
Error: Where is my tennis bat?
Word-exchange error A word-exchange error is a subcategory of lexical selection errors.[10] Two words are switched. Target: I must let the cat out of the house.
Error: I must let the house out of the cat.

Speech errors can affect different kinds of segments or linguistic units:

Segment Example
Distinctive or phonetic features Target: clear blue sky
Error: glear plue sky (voicing)
Phonemes or sounds Target: ad hoc
Error: odd hack
Sequences of sounds Target:spoon feeding
Error: foon speeding
Morphemes Target: sure
Error: unsure
Words Target: I hereby deputize you.
Error: I hereby jeopardize you.
Phrases Target: The sun is shining./The sky is blue.
Error: The sky is shining.



Scientific relevance

Speech production is a highly complex and extremely rapid process so that research into the involved mental mechanisms is very difficult.[10] Investigating the audible output of the speech production system is a way to understand these mental mechanisms. According to Gary S. Dell "the inner workings of a highly complex system are often revealed by the way in which the system breaks down".[10] Therefore, speech errors are of an explanatory value with regard to the nature of language and language production.[12]

Performance errors may provide the linguist with empirical evidence for linguistic theories and serve to test hypotheses about language and speech production models.[13] For that reason, the study of speech errors is significant for the construction of performance models and gives insight into language mechanisms.[13]

Evidence and insights

  • Speech errors provide investigators with insights into the sequential order of language production processes.[10]
  • Speech errors clue investigators in on the interactivity of language production modules.[12]
  • The existence of lexical or phonemic exchange errors provides evidence that speakers typically engage in forward planning their utterances. It seems that before the speaker starts speaking the whole utterance is available.[10]
Target: Take my bike.
Error: Bake my bike.
Target: He pulled a tantrum.
Error: He pulled a pantrum.
  • Performance errors supply evidence for the psychological existence of discrete linguistic units.
Speech errors involve substitutions, shifts, additions and deletions of segments. "In order to move a sound, the speaker must think of it as a separate unit."[3] Obviously, one cannot account for speech errors without speaking of these discrete segments. They constitute the planning units of language production.[1] Among them are distinctive features, phonemes, morphemes, syllables, words and phrases. Victoria Fromkin points out that "many of the segments that change and move in speech errors are precisely those postulated by linguistic theories." Consequently, speech errors give evidence that these units are psychologically real.
  • One can infer from speech errors that speakers adhere to a set of linguistic rules.
"There is a complex set of rules which the language user follows when making use of these units."[3] Among them are for example phonetic constraints, which prescribe the possible sequences of sounds.[3] Moreover, the study of speech error confirmed the existence of rules that state how morphemes are to be pronounced or how they should be combined with other morphemes.[3] The following examples show that speech errors also observe these rules:
Target: He likes to have his team rested. [rest+id]
Error: He likes to have his rest teamed. [ti:m+d]
Target: Both kids are sick. [kid+z]
Error: Both sicks are kids. [sik+s]
Here the past tense morpheme resp. the plural morpheme is phonologically conditioned, although the lemmas are exchanged. This proves that first the lemmas are inserted and then phonological conditioning takes place.
Target: Don’t yell so loud! / Don’t shout so loud!
Error: Don’t shell so loud!
"Shout" and "yell" are both appropriate words in this context. Due to the pressure to continue speaking, the speaker has to make a quick decision which word should be selected.[8] This pressure leads to the speaker’s attempt to utter the two words simultaneously, which resulted in the creation of a blend.[8] According to Charles F. Hockett there are six possible blends of "shout" and "yell".[8] Why did the speaker choose "shell" and not one of the alternatives? The speaker obeyed unconscious linguistic rules because he selected the blend, which satisfied the linguistic demands of these rules the best.[8] Illegal non-words are for example instantaneously rejected.
In conclusion, the rules which tell language users how to produce speech must also be part of our mental organization of language.[3]
  • Substitution errors, for instance, reveal parts of the organization and structure of the mental lexicon.
Target: My thesis is too long.
Error: My thesis is too short.
In case of substitution errors both segments mostly belong to the same category, which means for example that a noun is substituted for a noun. Lexical selection errors are based on semantic relations such as synonymy, antonymy or membership of the same lexical field.[2] For this reason the mental lexicon is structured in terms of semantic relationships.[3]
Target: George’s wife
Error: George’s life
Target: fashion square
Error: passion square
Some substitution errors which are based on phonological similarities supply evidence that the mental lexicon is also organized in terms of sound.[3]
  • Errors in speech are non-random. Linguists can elicit from the speech error data how speech errors are produced and which linguistic rules they adhere to. As a result, they are able to predict speech errors.
Four generalizations about speech errors have been identified:[1]
  1. Interacting elements tend to come from a similar linguistic environment, which means that initial, middle, final segments interact with one another.
  2. Elements that interact with one another tend to be phonetically or semantically similar to one another. This means that consonants exchange with consonants and vowels with vowels.
  3. Slips are consistent with the phonological rules of the language.
  4. There are consistent stress patterns in speech errors. Predominantly, both interacting segments receive major or minor stress.
  • These four generalizations support the idea of the lexical bias effect. This effect states that our phonological speech errors generally form words rather than non-words. Baars (1975) showed evidence for this effect when he presented word pairs in rapid succession and asked participants to say both words in rapid succession back. In most of the trials, the mistakes made still formed actual words.[14]

Information obtained from performance additions

An example of the information that can be obtained is the use of "um" or "uh" in a conversation.[15] These might be meaningful words that tell different things, one of which is to hold a place in the conversation so as not to be interrupted. There seems to be a hesitant stage and fluent stage that suggest speech has different levels of production. The pauses seem to occur between sentences, conjunctional points and before the first content word in a sentence. That suggests that a large part of speech production happens there.

Schachter et al. (1991) conducted an experiment to examine if the numbers of word choices affect pausing. They sat in on the lectures of 47 undergraduate professors from 10 different departments and calculated the number and times of filled pauses and unfilled pauses. They found significantly more pauses in the humanities departments as opposed to the natural sciences.[16] These findings suggest that the greater the number of word choices, the more frequent are the pauses, and hence the pauses serve to allow us time to choose our words.

Slips of the tongue are another form of "errors" that can help us understand the process of speech production better. Slips can happen at many levels, at the syntactic level, at the phrasal level, at the lexical semantic level, at the morphological level and at the phonological level and they can take more than one form like: additions, substations, deletion, exchange, anticipation, perseveration, shifts, and haplologies M.F. Garrett, (1975).[17] Slips are orderly because language production is orderly.

There are some biases shown through slips of the tongue. One kind is a lexical bias which shows that the slips people generate are more often actual words than random sound strings. Baars Motley and Mackay (1975) found that it was more common for people to turn two actual words to two other actual words than when they do not create real words.[14] This suggests that lexemes might overlap somewhat or be stored similarly.

A second kind is a semantic bias which shows a tendency for sound bias to create words that are semantically related to other words in the linguistic environment. Motley and Baars (1976) found that a word pair like "get one" will more likely slip to "wet gun" if the pair before it is "damp rifle". These results suggest that we are sensitive to how things are laid out semantically.[18]

Euphemistic misspeaking

Although the roots of misspeaking roots lie in Middle English and earlier,[19] since the 1980s the word has been used increasingly in politics to imply that errors made by a speaker are accidental and should not be construed as a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the facts of a case. As such, its usage has attracted a degree of media coverage, particularly from critics who feel that the term is overly approbative in cases where either ignorance of the facts or intent to misrepresent should not be discarded as possibilities.[20][21]

The word was used by a White House spokesman after George W. Bush seemed to say that his government was always "thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people", and more famously by then American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who recalled landing in at the US military outpost of Tuzla "under sniper fire" (in fact, video footage demonstrates that there were no such problems on her arrival).[21][22] Other users of the term include American politician Richard Blumenthal, who incorrectly stated on a number of occasions that he had served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Carroll, David (1986). Psychology of language. Pacific Grove, CA, USA: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co. pp. 253–256. ISBN 978-0-534-05640-7. OCLC 12583436.
  2. ^ a b Bussmann, Hadumod. Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics. Routledge: London 1996, 449.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Tserdanelis, Georgios; Wai Sum Wong (2004). Language files: materials for an introduction to language & linguistics. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. pp. 320–324. ISBN 978-0-8142-0970-7. OCLC 54503589.
  4. ^ Dell, Gary S.; Reich, Peter A. (December 1981). "Stages in sentence production: An analysis of speech error data". Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. 20 (6): 611–629. doi:10.1016/S0022-5371(81)90202-4.
  5. ^ "Slips of the Tongue". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  6. ^ a b Preston, Jonathan; Byun, Tara (November 2015). "Residual Speech Errors: Causes, Implications, Treatment". Seminars in Speech and Language. 36 (4): 215–216. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1562904. ISSN 0734-0478. PMID 26458196.
  7. ^ Fromkin, Victoria. "The Non-Anomalous Nature of Anomalous Utterances" (PDF). Stanford.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Hockett, Charles F. (1973). "Where the tongue slips, there slip I". In Victoria Fromkin. Speech errors as linguistic evidence. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 97–114. OCLC 1009093.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  9. ^ Pfau, Roland. Grammar as processor: a distributed morphology account of spontaneous speech. John Benjamins Publishing Co.: Amsterdam 2009, 10.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Eysenck, Michael W.; Keane, Mark A. (2005). Cognitive Psychology: A Student's Handbook. Psychology Press (UK). p. 402. ISBN 978-1-84169-359-0. OCLC 608153953.
  11. ^ Anderson, John R. Kognitive Psychologie. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag: Heidelberg 1996 (2nd edition), 353.
  12. ^ a b Smith, Derek J. "Speech Errors, Speech Production Models, and Speech Pathology." Human Information Processing. Date of last revision: 12 December 2003. Date of access: 27 February 2010. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 December 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2007.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link).
  13. ^ a b Fromkin, Victoria (1973). "Introduction". In Victoria Fromkin. Speech errors as linguistic evidence. The Hague: Mouton. p. 13. ISBN 978-90-279-2668-5. OCLC 1009093.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  14. ^ a b Baars, Bernard J.; Michael T. Motley; Donald G. MacKay (August 1975). "Output editing for lexical status in artificially elicited slips of the tongue". Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. 14 (4): 382–391. doi:10.1016/S0022-5371(75)80017-X.
  15. ^ Clark HH, Fox Tree JE (May 2002). "Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking". Cognition. 84 (1): 73–111. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S0010-0277(02)00017-3. PMID 12062148.
  16. ^ Schachter, Stanley; Nicholas Christenfeld; Bernard Ravina; Frances Bilous (March 1991). "Speech Disfluency and the Structure of Knowledge". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 60 (3): 362–367. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.60.3.362. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  17. ^ Garrett, M. F. (1975). "The analysis of sentence production.". In Gordon H Bower. The Psychology of learning and motivation. Volume 9 : advances in research and theory. New York: Academic Press. pp. 133–177. ISBN 978-0-12-543309-9. OCLC 24672687.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  18. ^ Motley, Michael T.; Bernard J. Baars (1976). "Semantic bias effects on the outcomes of verbal slips". Cognition. 43 (2): 177–187. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(76)90003-2. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
  19. ^ "misspeak, v." Oxford English Dictionary Online. June 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  20. ^ Hendrik Hertzberg (21 April 2008). "Mr. and Ms. Spoken". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  21. ^ a b c Dominic Lawson (23 May 2010). "Don't lie – try misspeaking instead". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  22. ^ "Does 'misspeak' mean lying?". BBC News. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 28 August 2011.

Further reading

External links

  1. ^ "Fromkins Speech Error Database — Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics". www.mpi.nl. Retrieved 2017-11-04.
Barbarism (linguistics)

A barbarism is a non-standard word, expression or pronunciation in a language, particularly one regarded as an error in morphology, while a solecism is an error in syntax. The label was originally applied to mixing Ancient Greek or Latin with other languages. It expanded to indicate any inappropriate words or expressions in classical studies, and eventually to any language considered unpolished or rude. The term is used mainly for the written language. With no accepted technical meaning in modern linguistics, the term is little used by contemporary descriptive scientists.


Colemanballs is a term coined by Private Eye magazine to describe verbal gaffes perpetrated by sports commentators. Coleman refers to the surname of the former BBC broadcaster David Coleman and the suffix -balls, as in "to balls up", and has since spawned derivative terms in unrelated fields such as "Warballs" (spurious references to the September 11, 2001 attacks) and "Dianaballs" (sentimental references to Diana, Princess of Wales) and "Borisballs" (Boris Johnson). Any other subject can be covered, as long as it is appropriately suffixed by -balls. The all-encompassing term "mediaballs" has since been used by Private Eye as its coverage of gaffes has expanded.


In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers' disease" for "Alzheimer's disease". An eggcorn can be described as an intra-lingual phono-semantic matching, a matching in which the intended word and substitute are from the same language.


An error (from the Latin error, meaning "wandering") is an action which is inaccurate or incorrect. In some usages, an error is synonymous with a mistake. In statistics, "error" refers to the difference between the value which has been computed and the correct value. An error could result in failure or in a deviation from the intended performance or behaviour.

Error analysis (linguistics)

In linguistics, according to J. Richard et al., (2002), an error is the use of a word, speech act or grammatical items in such a way it seems imperfect and significant of an incomplete learning (184). It is considered by Norrish (1983, p. 7) as a systematic deviation that happens when a learner has not learnt something, and consistently gets it wrong. However, the attempts made to put the error into context have always gone hand in hand with either language learning and second-language acquisition processes, Hendrickson (1987:357) mentioned that errors are ‘signals’ that indicate an actual learning process taking place and that the learner has not yet mastered or shown a well-structured competence in the target language.

All the definitions seemed to stress either on the systematic deviations triggered in the language learning process, or its indications of the actual situation of the language learner themselves which will later help the monitor be it an applied linguist or particularly the language teacher to solve the problem respecting one of the approaches argued in the Error Analysis (Anefnaf 2017), the occurrence of errors doesn’t only indicate that the learner has not learned something yet, but also it gives the linguist the idea of whether the teaching method applied was effective or it needs to be changed.

According to Corder (1976) errors are significant of three things, first to the teacher, in that they tell him, if he or she undertakes a systematic analysis, how far towards that goal the learner has progressed and, consequently, what remains for him to learn. Second, they provide the researcher with evidence of how language is learned or acquired, and what strategies or procedures the learner is employing in his discovery of the language. Third (and in a sense this is their most important aspect) they are indispensable to the learner himself, because we can regard the making of errors as a device the learner uses in order to learn (p. 167). The occurrence of errors is merely signs of ‘’the present inadequacy of our teaching methods’’ (Corder 1976, p. 163).

There have been two schools of thought when it comes to errors analysis and philosophy, the first one, according to Corder (1967) linked the errors commitment with the teaching method arguing that if the teaching method was adequate, the errors would not be committed, the second school believed that we live in an imperfect world and that errors correction is something real and the applied linguist cannot do without it no matter what teaching approach they may use.

Error treatment (linguistics)

In second language acquisition, error treatment refers to the way teachers respond to learners' linguistic errors made in the course of learning a second language. Many error treatment studies seek to address issues like when, how, and by whom such errors should be corrected.

Freudian slip

A Freudian slip, also called parapraxis, is an error in speech, memory, or physical action that occurs due to the interference of an unconscious subdued wish or internal train of thought. The concept is part of classical psychoanalysis. Classical examples involve slips of the tongue, but psychoanalytic theory also embraces misreadings, mishearings, temporary forgettings, and the mislaying and losing of objects.


In sociolinguistics, hypercorrection is non-standard language use that results from the over-application of a perceived rule of language-usage prescription. A speaker or writer who produces a hypercorrection generally believes through a misunderstanding of these rules that the form is more "correct", standard, or otherwise preferable, often combined with a desire to appear formal or educated.Linguistic hypercorrection occurs when a real or imagined grammatical rule is applied in an inappropriate context, so that an attempt to be "correct" leads to an incorrect result. It does not occur when a speaker follows "a natural speech instinct", according to Otto Jespersen and Robert J. Menner.Hypercorrection can be found among speakers of less prestigious language varieties who attempt to produce forms associated with high-prestige varieties, even in situations where speakers of those varieties would not. Some commentators call such production hyperurbanism.Hypercorrection can occur in many languages and wherever multiple languages or language varieties are in contact.


An interlanguage is an idiolect that has been developed by a learner of a second language (or L2) which preserves some features of their first language (or L1), and can also overgeneralize some L2 writing and speaking rules. These two characteristics of an interlanguage result in the system's unique linguistic organization.

An interlanguage is idiosyncratically based on the learners' experiences with the L2. It can "fossilize", or cease developing, in any of its developmental stages. The interlanguage rules are claimed to be shaped by several factors, including L1-transfer, previous learning strategies, strategies of L2 acquisition (i.e., simplification), L2 communication strategies (i.e., circumlocution), and overgeneralization of L2 language patterns.

Interlanguage is based on the theory that there is a dormant psychological framework in the human brain that is activated when one attempts to learn a second language. Interlanguage theory is often credited to Larry Selinker, who coined the terms "interlanguage" and "fossilization." Uriel Weinreich is credited with providing the foundational information that was the basis of Selinker's research. Selinker (1972) noted that in a given situation, the utterances produced by a learner are different from those native speakers would produce had they attempted to convey the same meaning. This comparison suggests the existence of a separate linguistic system. This system can be observed when studying the utterances of the learner who attempts to produce meaning in their L2 speech; it is not seen when that same learner performs form-focused tasks, such as oral drills in a classroom.

Interlanguage can be variable across different contexts; for example, it may be more accurate, complex and fluent in one domain than in another.

To study the psychological processes involved one can compare the interlanguage utterances of the learner with two things:

Utterances in the native language (L1) to convey the same message produced by the learner.

Utterances in the target language (L2) to convey the same message, produced by a native speaker of that language.It is possible to apply an interlanguage perspective to a learner's underlying knowledge of the target language sound system (interlanguage phonology), grammar (morphology and syntax), vocabulary (lexicon), and language-use norms found among learners (interlanguage pragmatics).

By describing the ways in which learner language conforms to universal linguistic norms, interlanguage research has contributed greatly to our understanding of linguistic universals in second-language acquisition.


A lapsus (Latin for "lapse, slip, error") is an involuntary mistake made while writing or speaking, something long studied in philology.


A malapropism (also called a malaprop or Dogberryism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, sometimes humorous utterance. An example is the statement by baseball player Yogi Berra, "Texas has a lot of electrical votes", rather than "electoral votes". Malapropisms often occur as errors in natural speech and are sometimes the subject of media attention, especially when made by politicians or other prominent individuals. Philosopher Donald Davidson has said that malapropisms show the complex process through which the brain translates thoughts into language.

Humorous malapropisms are the type that attract the most attention and commentary, but bland malapropisms are common in speech and writing.

Metathesis (linguistics)

Metathesis (; from Greek μετάθεσις, from μετατίθημι "I put in a different order"; Latin: trānspositiō) is the transposition of sounds or syllables in a word or of words in a sentence. Most commonly, it refers to the interchange of two or more contiguous sounds, known as adjacent metathesis or local metathesis:

foliage > **foilage

cavalry > **calvaryMetathesis may also involve interchanging non-contiguous sounds, known as nonadjacent metathesis, long-distance metathesis, or hyperthesis:, as shown in these examples of metathesis sound change from Latin to Spanish:

Latin parabola > Spanish palabra 'word'

Latin miraculum > Spanish milagro 'miracle'

Latin periculum > Spanish peligro 'danger, peril'

Latin crocodilus > Spanish cocodrilo 'crocodile'Many languages have words that show this phenomenon, and some even use it as a regular part of their grammar, such as Hebrew and Fur. The process of metathesis has altered the shape of many familiar words in English as well.

The original form before metathesis may be deduced from older forms of words in the language's lexicon or, if no forms are preserved, from phonological reconstruction. In some cases, including English "ask" (see below), it is not possible to settle with certainty on the original version.


A mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar and make some kind of sense. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in 1954, writing about how as a girl she had misheard the lyric "...and laid him on the green" in a Scottish ballad as, "...and Lady Mondegreen"."Mondegreen" was included in the 2000 edition of the Random House Webster's College Dictionary, and in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2002. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary added the word in 2008. Examples in other languages include those cited by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in the Hebrew song "Háva Nagíla", and in Bollywood films.Closely related categories are Hobson-Jobson, where a word from a foreign language is homophonically translated into one's own language, e.g. cockroach from Spanish cucaracha, and soramimi, a Japanese term for homophonic translation of song lyrics.An unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases, resulting in a changed meaning, is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it may be called an eggcorn. If a person stubbornly continues to mispronounce a word or phrase after being corrected, that person has committed a mumpsimus.


A mumpsimus () a "traditional custom obstinately adhered to however unreasonable it may be", or "someone who obstinately clings to an error, bad habit or prejudice, even after the foible has been exposed and the person humiliated; also, any error, bad habit, or prejudice clung to in this fashion". Thus it may describe behaviour or the person who behaves thus. For example, all intensive purposes is a common eggcorn of the fixed expression all intents and purposes; if a person continues to say the eggcorn even after being made aware of the correct form, either the speaker or the phrase may be called a mumpsimus.


Paraphasia is a type of language output error commonly associated with aphasia, and characterized by the production of unintended syllables, words, or phrases during the effort to speak. Paraphasic errors are most common in patients with fluent forms of aphasia, and comes in three forms: phonemic or literal, neologistic, and verbal. Paraphasias can affect metrical information, segmental information, number of syllables, or both. Some paraphasias preserve the meter without segmentation, and some do the opposite. However, most paraphasias affect both partially.The term was apparently introduced in 1877 by the German-English physician Julius Althaus in his book on Diseases of the Nervous System, in a sentence reading, "In some cases there is a perfect chorea or delirium of words, which may be called paraphasia".

Speech production

Speech production is the process by which thoughts are translated into speech. This includes the selection of words, the organization of relevant grammatical forms, and then the articulation of the resulting sounds by the motor system using the vocal apparatus. Speech production can be spontaneous such as when a person creates the words of a conversation, reactive such as when they name a picture or read aloud a written word, or imitative, such as in speech repetition. Speech production is not the same as language production since language can also be produced manually by signs.

In ordinary fluent conversation people pronounce roughly four syllables, ten or twelve phonemes and two to three words out of their vocabulary (that can contain 10 to 100 thousand words) each second. Errors in speech production are relatively rare occurring at a rate of about once in every 900 words in spontaneous speech. Words that are commonly spoken or learned early in life or easily imagined are quicker to say than ones that are rarely said, learnt later in life, or are abstract.Normally speech is created with pulmonary pressure provided by the lungs that generates sound by phonation through the glottis in the larynx that then is modified by the vocal tract into different vowels and consonants. However speech production can occur without the use of the lungs and glottis in alaryngeal speech by using the upper parts of the vocal tract. An example of such alaryngeal speech is Donald Duck talk.The vocal production of speech may be associated with the production of hand gestures that act to enhance the comprehensibility of what is being said.The development of speech production throughout an individual's life starts from an infant's first babble and is transformed into fully developed speech by the age of five. The first stage of speech doesn't occur until around age one (holophrastic phase). Between the ages of one and a half and two and a half the infant can produce short sentences (telegraphic phase). After two and a half years the infant develops systems of lemmas used in speech production. Around four or five the child's lemmas are largely increased, this enhances the child's production of correct speech and they can now produce speech like an adult. An adult now develops speech in four stages: Activation of lexical concepts, select lemmas needed, morphologically and phonologically encode speech, and the word is phonetically encoded.

Speech sound disorder

A speech sound disorder (SSD) is a speech disorder in which some speech sounds (called phonemes) in a child's (or, sometimes, an adult's) language are either not produced, not produced correctly, or are not used correctly. The term protracted phonological development is sometimes preferred when describing children's speech to emphasize the continuing development while acknowledging the delay.


A spoonerism is an error in speech in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched (see Metathesis) between two words in a phrase. These are named after the Oxford don and ordained minister William Archibald Spooner, who was famous for doing this.

An example is saying "The Lord is a shoving leopard" instead of "The Lord is a loving shepherd." While spoonerisms are commonly heard as slips of the tongue, and getting one's words in a tangle, they can also be used intentionally as a play on words.

Victoria Fromkin

Victoria Fromkin (May 16, 1923 – January 19, 2000) was an American linguist who taught at UCLA. She studied slips of the tongue, mishearing, and other speech errors and applied this to phonology, the study of how the sounds of a language are organized in the mind.

Operations and events

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.