Psycholinguistics - Speech errors

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2004

21 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1 Introduction

2 Levelt’s model of speech production
2.1 Slots-and-Fillers Theory

3 Types of speech errors
3.1 Blends
3.1.1 Word blends
3.1.2 Phrase blends
3.2 Substitutions
3.2.1 Word substitution
3.2.2 Substitution of one sound for another
3.3 Exchanges
3.3.1 Word exchange
3.3.2 Phrase exchange
3.3.3 Exchange of sounds
3.3.4 Exchange of consonant clusters
3.3.5 Exchange of morphemes
3.3.6 Exchange of features

4 Explanation of some speech errors according to Levelt’s model

5 Garrett’s model of speech production
5.1 Explanation of a few speech errors according to Garrett’s model

6 Summary


1 Introduction

Speech errors are errors in spontaneous speech and not the product of intentional ungrammaticality or dialects.

They occur when the speaker’s actual utterance differs in some way from the intended utterance, the so called target. The question is what kind of speech errors can occur and how these errors can be explained with the help of different models of speech production.

My termpaper is concerned with different types of speech errors and two important models of speech production by Levelt and Garrett.

I will introduce Levelt’s model of speech production first. Then I will explain different types of speech errors with reference to this model.

In chapter 4 I will give own examples of German speech errors from everyday life and TV, try to put them into Levelt’s model and explain them.

Afterwards I will introduce the speech production model of Garrett and give two examples of speech errors with reference to this model.

At the end of this term paper I will to give a short summary and compare the two models briefly.

2 Levelt’s model of speech production

illustration not visible in this excerpt

figure taken from: Levelt (1989, p.9)

Fluent speech consists of a number of processing components which are shown in Levelt’s (1989) model above. The boxes in this model represent processing components and the circle and the ellipse stand for knowledge stores.

The “Blueprint for the Speaker” consists of the following components:

(1) Conceptualizer: The conceptualizer selects the relevant information, orders this information for expression and so on; this process is called “conceptualizing”. Finally it generates the preverbal message. In order to encode a message the speaker needs two kinds of knowledge:

– the procedual knowledge which has the format “if x then y”. This is the knowledge of what the situation is about.
– the declarative knowledge which often is propositional knowledge.

(2) Formulator: It translates the preverbal message into a linguistic structure and produces as output a phonetic or articulatory plan. The translation proceeds in two steps:

- Grammatical encoding; here lemmas from the lexicon are retrieved and grammatical relations reflecting the conceptual relations in the message are generated. Its output is called ‘surface structure’ which is an ordered string of lemmas grouped in phrases and subphrases.
- Phonological encoding; here a phonetic plan is created on the basis of the surface structure.

(3) Articulator: Until now nothing has been said yet. The Articulator unfolds and executes the phonetic plan and the product of articulation is overt speech. An articulatory buffer helps to store the phonetic plan temporarily.

(4) Speech-Comprehension-System: This component allows the speaker to monitor his own productions by making self-produced internal and overt speech available on the conceptual system.

These components are all autonomous specialists in transforming the input into its output. There is no feedback or interference among the components which makes it possible for speech errors to occur because the different components don’t see that there is something wrong in an input.

2.1 Slots-and-Fillers Theory

Levelt’s model is closely related to the Slots-and-Fillers Theory of Stephanie Shuttuck-Hufnagel. This theory says that there are three levels of processing during phonological encoding. These are morphological/metrical spellout, segmental spellout and phonetic spellout.

The Slots-and-Fillers Theory states that errors of word form are due to failures in addressing. In detail it says that in every level different structural frames are set up which are the address for suitable, independently spelled-out sublexical units. These frames have got slots which can be filled with appropriate fillers and every slot requires a filler of his own category. This theory “explains the causation of errors by failures of two control processes: selection and checkoff” (Levelt 1989, p. 351).

3 Types of speech errors

In the literature there are different kinds of speech errors mentioned and I’ll present only a few types in my work. Chapter 3 of this termpaper is based on Levelt (1989, pages 214-223 and 330-351) and handouts from class (date: 27-01-03).

The types of speech errors can be classified by considering the linguistic units involved, e.g. syllable, morpheme, phrase, word and the error mechanisms involved, e.g. blends, substitutions, additions.

In the following part I will give examples of speech errors and explain how these errors come to happen. I will explain the following speech error types: blends, substitutions and exchanges.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure taken from: Levelt (1989, p.215)

In his book Levelt (1989) distinguishes between two causes of speech errors: conceptual intrusion (figure a and b) and associative intrusion (figure c and d). In the figure above C always stands for the intended concept and l is the appropriate lemma to this concept. I will go into this later on in my text.

3.1 Blends

3.1.1 Word blends

Word blends are speech errors in which two suitable words fall together and are fused into one word, that means that both words are partially chosen. “Two lemmas are retrieved, which compete for the same syntactic slot” (Levelt 1989, p. 215).

We distinguish between two kinds of word blends:

1) blends with words of similar meaning and 2) blends-by-distraction.

Example of the first type:

- Irvine is quite clear [close/near] (Fromkin 1973)

In this class of word blends the two mixed words are equivalent in meaning and are both suitable in the context of the sentence. The speaker has these two related concepts in mind and the lemmas for both words are activated almost simultaneously. Then both lexical items are retrieved and are inserted at the same surface-structure slot and the words are blended at the level of phonological processing. Because the two changed words are very similar we say that these blends are due to conceptual intrusion (figure 6.6a). Conceptual intrusion occurs when “lemma selection is disturbed by the simultaneous activity of two or more concepts” (Levelt 1989, p. 214). This happens in the Conceptualizer, where the relevant information is selected.

Example of the second type:

- Dann sind aber Tatsachen zum Vorschwein [Vorschein/Schweinereien] gekommen (Meringer and Mayer 1895)


Excerpt out of 21 pages


Psycholinguistics - Speech errors
Technical University of Braunschweig
Introduction to psycholinguistics
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Psycholinguistics, Speech, Introduction
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Jessica Schulze (Author), 2004, Psycholinguistics - Speech errors, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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