Language production
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ABRALIN21-FEB-05. Language Production. Eva M. Fern ández Queens College & Graduate Center CUNY. Second Week, Proposed Schedule. Segunda-feira:PRODUCTION Ter ça-feira:PERCEPTION Quarta-feira:METHODS Quinta- e Sexta-feira:BILINGUALS. General Domain of Psycholinguistics.

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Language production


Language Production

Eva M. Fernández

Queens College & Graduate Center


Second week proposed schedule

Second Week, Proposed Schedule

  • Segunda-feira:PRODUCTION

  • Terça-feira:PERCEPTION

  • Quarta-feira:METHODS

  • Quinta- e Sexta-feira:BILINGUALS

General domain of psycholinguistics

General Domain of Psycholinguistics

  • How does linguistic competence develop?

  • How is linguistic competence used, in real time?

  • Linguistic performance:

    • language acquisition

    • language processing

       production

       perception

Language is

Language Is…






Language is1

Language Is…








knowledge about

the real world…



A model of speech production

A Model of Speech Production










instructions to articulators&production of speech


Evidence for this model

Evidence for this Model?

  • The model seems to indicate there’s a time-course of processes in sentence production:

    • some come earlier, others later

  • Do people plan their speech before they speak? (despite the fact that they may not plan their ideas)

  • Does this take long?

  • Speech error corpora

  • Inducing tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) states

  • Eliciting production

Two landmark historical pieces

Two Landmark Historical Pieces

  • Al Kitaab (~12th Century), Arab scholar

    • Errors of the Populace

    • analysis of production errors, to demonstrate phenomena in diachronic language change

  • Sigmund Freud, Vienese psychoanalyst

    • The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901)

    • “lapsus linguae” (slips of the tongue), “lapsus calami” (slips of the pen), or in general, “Fehleistung” (= faulty action, “parapraxis”, “Freudian slip”)

    • repressed emotions cause errors (id over ego)

Freudian slips examples

Freudian Slips: Examples

  • President of the Austrian Parliament says: “I take notice that a full quorum of members is present and herewith declare the sitting closed!”

  • Hotel boy knocks at bishop’s door, bishop says “Who is it?” and boy nervously replies: “The Lord, my boy!”

  • Member of the House of Commons refers to another honorable member as “Central Hell” (rather than “Hull”)

  • Professor says: “In the case of the female genital, in spite of the tempting… I mean, the attempted…”

  • Lady of well-determined character says: “My husband asked his doctor what sort of diet ought to be provided for him. But the doctor said he needed no special diet, he could eat and drink whatever I choose.”

Malapropisms speech errors

Malapropisms speech errors

  • Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Sheridan’s The Rivals (1775)

    • using words “mal à propos” (= out of place)

    • “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the nile.” (alligator)

    • “Comparisons are odorous.” (odious)

    • “He is the very pineapple of politeness.” (pinnacle)

    • “I want to remind you all that in order to fight and win the war, it requires an expenditure of money that is commiserate with keeping a promise to our troops to make sure that they’re well-paid, well-trained, well equipped” (comensurate)

    • “Even Napoleon had his Watergate!” (Nixon or Waterloo)

Code switches borrowings speech errors

Code-switches & borrowings  speech errors

  • “Llegó el big chief.”

  • “Estaba training para pelear.”

  • “Vivo en ese building, el del rufo verde.”

  • “¿Vamos a lonchar?”

  • “Está flipando.”

  • “Quiere correr para mayor.”

  • “Se manchó la carpeta.”




Spoonerisms speech errors

Spoonerisms speech errors

  • Reverend Spooner, 19th Cent Oxford professor

    • “Work is the curse of the drinking classes!” (drink… working)

    • “… queer old dean…” (dear old queen, i.e., Queen Victoria)

    • “… noble tons of soil…” (sons of toil)

    • “You have tasted the whole worm.” (wasted… term)

    • “I have in my bosom a half-warmed fish” (half-formed wish)

Why do people s tongues slip

Why do People’s Tongues Slip?

  • Freud:

    • slips of the tongue, and other such phenomena: caused by repressed emotions

  • More modern approaches:

    • things go wrong at one or another phase as the representation is built, during language production

Collecting data on speech errors

Collecting Data on Speech Errors

  • Corpora, built up by annotated observed errors

    • even you can do this: write down what the speaker said and as much context as possible, as well as what the speaker meant to say

  • Sometimes, induced in lab:

    • I say fuzzy, you say duck experiment

    • “bias + target pairs” paradigm

    • “flip Ns in NP” paradigm

dart board

dust bin

duck bill

barn door (darn bore?)

una niña de los gatos

unos gatos de la niña

(unas gatas del niño?

un gato de las niñas? …)

Three broad categories

Three Broad Categories




    Useful hint: in the next three slides, check the direction of the arrow, which points to the location of the error.



  • an earlier segment/word perseveres…

    I can’t cook worth a cam.






  • intrusion of a segment/word that’s coming up, that’s being anticipated

    taddle tennisleading list

    leaders of Lebanon












  • switch of two segments/words

    hass or grash

    you have tasted the whole worm



hash or grass





What s persevering being anticipated being exchanged

What’s persevering, being anticipated, being exchanged?

Speech errors constrained

Speech Errors: Constrained

  • Certain things just don’t happen.

    • Why not?

    • What constrains the behavior?

  • Impossible forms never created:

    • no error ever violates phonotactic constraints

    • no error ever violates phonological / morphological rules

      slips of the tongue  tips of the slung

      * tlips of the sung

More constraints

More Constraints

  • Similar elements are always involved in substitutions and exchanges:

    • C’s & V’s don’t exchange, but C’s & C’s do, so do V’s & V’s

    • Content & Content words, yes; Content & Function words, no!

  • Large majority of errors occur within clauses:

    • This suggests speech is planned / organized in clause-sized bundles

More constraints1

More Constraints

  • Errors respect syntactic structure

    There’s an island on the small restaurant

    (Intended: There’s a small restaurant on the island)

    (Never: There’s island restaurant on the a small)

    Exchange involved NPs, not just Ns

  • Resulting sentences are always grammatical!

Details of when rules apply

Details of When Rules Apply

  • Consider the following error:

    You ordered up ending

    (Intended: You ended up ordering)

    (And never: You ordering up ended)

    • -ing morpheme didn’t move up with order: why not?

    • morphemes are perhaps part of the derivation, by themselves?

    • morphemes get “stranded”

More such examples

More Such Examples

We roasted a cook

(Intended: We cooked a roast)

If you give the nipple an infant…

(Intended: If you give the infant a nipple…)

You have a lot of churches in our minister.

(Intended: You have a lot of ministers in our church.)

And yet more examples

And Yet More Examples

Esas bocas no han salido de mi palabra.

(Intended: Esas palabras no han salido de mi boca.)

No quiero que crea.

(Intended: No creo que quiera.)

Las manecillas sin reloj…

(Intended: El reloj sin manecillas.)

Stress and sentence level prosody

Stress (and Sentence-Level Prosody)

  • Sentence-level stress is applied based on the structure of the clause (it’s not just something associated with a particular lexical item), so… stress won’t move with lexical exchange error:

  • When the PAPER hits the story…

  • Intended: When the STORY hits the paper…

  • (Never: When the paper hits the STORY…)

  • Stop beating your BRICK against a head wall

  • Intended: Stop beating your HEAD against a brick wall

  • (Never: Stop beating your brick against a HEAD wall)

Speech errors constrained1

Speech Errors: Constrained

  • Errors never generate impossible forms or ungrammatical sentences

    • Phonotactic constraints are always obeyed

    • Syntactic constraints are never violated / syntactic structure is never misconfigured

  • Errors typically involve similar elements (same lexical category, same segmental category)

  • Errors usually occur within a clause

  • Errors offer interesting data regarding the steps (“modules”) involved in planning speech

Inducing freudian slips

Inducing Freudian Slips

Motley (1980): bias / target word-pair reading task

  • e.g.:dart board, dust bin, duck billbarn door  darn bore

  • 10-15% errors produced on target pairs

  • errors more likely if:

    • results are real words: barn door  darn bore (cf. born dancer  dorn bancer)

    • phonologically similar target words ( vowels): left hemisphere  heft lemisphere (cf. right hemisphere hight remisphere)

  • manipulations of context: electrical / sexual

    • shad bock  bad shock

    • tool kits …

Lexical retrieval


“Security is the essential roadblock to achieving the road map to peace.” (GWB, Washington, DC, July 25, 2003)

“The law I sign today directs new funds and new focus to the task of collecting vital intelligence on terrorist threats and on weapons of mass production.” (GWB, Washington, DC, November 27, 2002)

Source: The Complete Bushisms, Jacob Weisberg,

Among the many words you know

Among the Many Words You Know…

  • How do you go about selecting the ones you wind up using in your sentences?

  • How is a lexical item retrieved?



      • speaker uses meaning to retrieve words, but does form ever help choose?

      • uses form to retrieve words, but does meaning ever bias?

How is the lexicon organized

How is the Lexicon Organized?

  • Frequency

  • Meaning: close meaning associates to a word are stored nearby

    I hate… uh, I meant LOVE… dancing with you!

    I just feel like whipped cream and mushrooms


    All I want is something for my shoulders


  • Sound / Form: words with similar form are also stored nearby

    If you can find a gargle around the house…


How is the lexicon organized in addition to frequency

How is the Lexicon Organized?In addition to frequency…

  • …this restaurant hasn’t been awake very long


  • Put the oven on at a very low speed.


  • The picture of the whale from Jaws…


  • Don’t forget to wash your head tonight.


  • You’ll earn her eternal grapefruit.


  • I give you my undevoted attention.






How is the lexicon organized evidence tot states

How is the Lexicon Organized?Evidence: TOT States

  • TOT: Tip of the Tongue

    • You know the word you need, but you can’t quite get it…

    • But you always knowsomething about it:

      • number of syllables

      • initial or final sounds/letters

      • location of primary stress

    • What’s the item on the right?

A model of speech production1

A Model of Speech Production










instructions to articulators&production of speech


What about features

What about features?

  • Null hypothesis: retrieval and assignment of inflections is the same for all sorts of inflectional features

  • Gender and number agreement errors in Spanish

    • Su rendimiento en esta prueba no está asociada con...

    • Es el que más pinto… más pinta de chino tiene.

    • Lleva once años casados con…

    • A tan sólo unos centenares de metro…

      Igoa, J. M., García-Albea, J. E., & Sánchez-Casas, R. (1999). Gender-number dissociations in sentence production in Spanish. Rivista di Linguistica, 11.1, 163-196.

Agreement in spanish

Agreement in Spanish

  • “person” and “number” in agreement relations between a verb and its subject

    • La niña ha comido pan.

    • Las niñas han comido pan.

  • “gender” and “number” in agreement relations between a noun and (i) the constituents within the NP or (ii) an adjunct predicate of the NP

    • La profesora alemana

    • Las profesoras alemanas

    • El niño jugaba contento.

    • Los niños jugaban contentos.

Levels of representation

Levels of Representation

  • morphological (inflectional suffixes):

    • -a (gender)

    • -s (number)

  • syntactic

    • gender/number marking of “agreeing” constituents

  • conceptual/semantic:

    • sex (gender)

    • numerosity / notional number (number)

A difference in representation

A Difference in Representation

  • GENDER: can be determined by the semantics of words, or by their morphology

    mujer / hombre

    silla / zapato

    • it must be lexically specified (for nouns)!

    • it is arbitrary

  • NUMBER: not predictable from the semantics of phrases, or of words

    Abunda el polvo en mi apartamento.

    La policía llegó.

    Todo el mundo es bueno.

    • it isn’t lexically specified!

A typology for spanish gender

Elías-Cintrón (1994)

A Typology for Spanish Gender

A/B: differ in biological sex

 = variable feature



A: only type where gender is derived by rule; elsewhere, it’s lexical

D: “false pair”

A typology for spanish number

A Typology for Spanish Number

Elías-Cintrón (1994)

 = variable feature

Gender number same processing loci

Gender & Number: Same Processing Loci?

  • Null hypothesis: retrieval and assignment of inflections is the same for all sorts of inflectional features

  • Dissociation hypothesis: gender features are retrieved and assigned from lemmas, while number features are independently assigned to lemmas and later to word forms through phrase structure building operations

Corpus analysis data

Corpus Analysis Data

  • 725 errors involving gender and number (from Corpus of Spanish Slips of the Tongue, Del Viso et al., 1987)







  • Gender

    • Feminine for masculine

      Su rendimiento en esta prueba no está asociada con…

    • Masculine for feminine

      Es el que más pinto de chino tiene

  • Number

    • Plural for singular

      Lleva once años casados con…

    • Singular for plural

      A tan sólo unos centenares de metro…



  • Gender

    He cantado líneo y binga.(línea y bingo)

  • Number

    Y pagamos a media las cuotas.(a medias la cuota)

Movement errors with stranding

Movement Errors with Stranding

  • Gender

    Una cuera de suelo(Una suela de cuero)

  • Number

    Esas bocas no han salido de mi palabra.(Esas palabras no han salido de mi boca.)

Noncontextual errors

Noncontextual Errors

  • Form-based word substitutions

    Hay dos apóstoles. (epístolas)

  • Meaning-based word substitutions

    Toma sólo tres tenedores. (cucharadas)

  • Context-based word substitutions

    El estómago de las uñas. (rumiantes)

  • Word blends

    Hubo un confrontamiento. (confrontación/enfrentamiento)

also form-based, no?

Corpus analysis results

Corpus Analysis: Results

Corpus analysis results1

Corpus Analysis: Results

Noncontextual Errors (lexical errors, par excellence)

Elicited production experiment

Elicited Production Experiment

  • To induce stranding of gender / number inflections

  • Three manipulations:

    • mismatch, types of gender, plausibility

  • Procedure:

    una niña de los gatos

    unos gatos de la niña(no stranding)

    unas gatas del niño(gender stranding)

    un gato de las niñas(number stranding)

    una gata de los niños(gender + number)

Three manipulations

Three Manipulations


    un hermano del abogado

    un hermano de la abogada

    un hermano de los abogados

    un hermano de las abogadas


    A: el niño / la niña

    B: el amante / la amante

    D: el libro / la libra


    Plausible: una prima de la camarera

    Implausible: una camarera de la prima

Elicited production results

Elicited Production: Results





Elicited production results1

Elicited Production: Results

Total Stranding

No Stranding



B < A < D

< D

Elicited production results2

Elicited Production: Results

Examples (and distribution of errors):


un maestro de la estudiante 

78un estudiante del maestro(N1)or

22una estudiante de la maestra(N2)

unas monas de la rama 

73unas ramas de las monas(N1)or

27una rama del mono(N2)




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