KU Speech Error.

New website wants your speech mistakes:

We’ve all had our mind go blank in the middle of a conversation. Suddenly, it’s impossible to pull up the word for a thing, place, or person. We gesture with our hands and feel like we’re on the verge of remembering—but the word just won’t appear.

It’s a predicament language researchers dub the “tip of the tongue” state.

These and other speech errors are tough for researchers to document and analyze because they can’t be replicated easily in a lab setting.

Now, there’s an online tool (registration required) allowing everyday people to engage in “citizen science” by recording speech errors. Its creators hope to crowdsource the most complete database of speech errors ever created and forge new insight into the acquisition, production, and perception of language. […]

Researchers hope users will enter their own and others’ experiences of tip-of-the-tongue states, as well as slips of the tongue, slips of the ear (where people misperceive words), and malapropisms. A description of the website appears in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Discussion of malapropisms and mondegreens at the link. Thanks, Paul!


  1. KU? I thought it was a “Kin-dza-dza!” reference 🙂

  2. KU = the University of Kansas

  3. Trond Engen says

    Good idea, but… How do they correct for selection bias towards spectacular or funny instances? How do they plan to discern between real speech errors and tall tales?

  4. My concern exactly.

  5. Well, here’s the spectacular instance I just posted:

    My friend, a composer and singer, played me a tape of himself singing “Born To Be Wild”. At the time, I did not know the song, and mondegreened the lyrics into complete scat. I assumed he had written the song, and said “Cool song, but why the scat lyrics?” He fell over laughing and showed me the actual lyrics on a piece of paper. After reading them, he played me the tape again and I heard them perfectly. They have never sounded like scat to me since.

  6. Okay, we’re in France. Teaching. But in a reasonably polyglot classroom–French, Spanish, Catalan, an English-speaking Turkish woman…and we both come up just lost between which language even to search for sometimes (surrounded by a group of students, doing a demonstration). Is anyone interested in this? or is it monoglot instances that are being researched? (Last week there were Dutch speakers, an Englishman, a Dutchman (is this the approved terminology these days?), a German woman… Who wants to hear about our linguistic Woking?

  7. The methodology sucks, as you guys have noted. Better was collection by observation; cf. “Fromkin’s Speech Error Database” (http://www.mpi.nl/resources/data/fromkins-speech-error-database). It should be noted that this project is ongoing at UCLA.

    The theoretical import of such collections is unclear. In the Wikipedia article “Victoria Fromkin” we read “Fromkin’s research helps support the argument that language processing is not modular” and a few lines later “The research of Fromkin helped support the hypothesis that language is modular.” That’s something, even for Wikipedia.

  8. Ha!

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