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A speech error, commonly referred to as a slip of the tongue (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. 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.
Speech errors are common among children, who have yet to refine their speech, and can frequently continue into adulthood. 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 contributes to the establishment/refinement of models of speech production.
Speech errors are made on an occasional basis by all speakers. They occur more often when speakers are nervous, tired, anxious or intoxicated. 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. Some speakers seem to be more prone to speech errors than others. For example, there is a certain connection between stuttering and speech errors. 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." 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).
An outdated explanation for the occurrence of speech errors is the one of Sigmund Freud, who assumed that speech errors are the result of an intrapsychic conflict of concurrent intentions. “Virtually all speech errors [are] caused by the intrusion of repressed ideas from the unconscious into one’s conscious speech output”, Freud explained. This gave rise to the expression Freudian slip. His theory was rejected because only a minority of speech errors were explainable by his theory.
|Addition||"Additions add linguistic material."||
Error: We and I
|Anticipation||"A later segment takes the place of an earlier segment."||
Target: reading list
Error: leading list
|Blends||Blends are a subcategory of lexical selection errors. More than one item is being considered during speech production. Consequently, the two intended items fuse together.||
|Deletion||Deletions or omissions leave some linguistic material out.||
Target: unanimity of opinion
Error: unamity of opinion
|Exchange||Exchanges are double shifts. Two linguistic units change places.||
Target: getting your nose remodeled
Error: getting your model renosed
|Lexical selection error||The speaker has "problems with selecting the correct word".||
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.||
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."||
Target: pus pocket
Error: pos pucket
|Morpheme-exchange error||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.||
Target: He has already packed two trunks.
Error: He has already trunked two packs.
Target: She can’t tell me.
Error: She can tell me.
|Perseveration||"An earlier segment replaces a later item."||
Target: black boxes
Error: black bloxes
|Shift||"One speech segment disappears from its appropriate location and appears somewhere else."||
Target: She decides to hit it.
Error: She decide to hits it.
|Sound-exchange error||Two sounds switch places.||
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. They are named after Reverend William Archibald Spooner, who probably invented most of his famous spoonerisms.||
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.||
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. Two words are switched.||
Target: I must let the cat out of the house.
Error: I must let the house out of the cat.
|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||
Error: foon speeding
Target: I hereby deputize you.
Error: I hereby jeopardize you.
Target: The sun is shining./The sky is blue.
Error: The sky is shining.
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