On the Consciousness of Slips of the Tongue

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Article Type: 
slips of the tongue; consciousness; unconsciousness
Deposited by: 
Dr Xiaolu Wang
Date of Issue: 
Xiaolu Wang, Yunqi Wang
Event Dates: 
19-22 June 2008
Event Location: 
Taibei, China
Event Title: 
12th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
People’s daily speech can be divided into conscious speech acts and unconcsious speech acts. For example, the ordinary speech falls into the former while the balderdash and other senseless talks belong to the latter. In this paper, slips of the tongue are singled out for discussion. So far there is no certain idea whether a tongue slip is a conscious speech act or an unconcsious speech act. David Crystal in his The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2002:264) defines “the slips of thetongue” as “involuntary departure from the speaker's intended production of a sequence of language units, which are very common. Sounds, syllables, morphemes, words, and sometimes larger units of grammar can be affected. Often, the deviant performance is immediately detected by the speaker (though not always consciously) and corrected.” Following this definition, it’s hard for us to decide whether a tongue slip is a conscious or unconcsious speech act. It seems that one is unconcsious when he/she makes speech errors but often he/she is concsious to know the mistake and correct them immediately. It is argued in the paper that slips of the tongue can occur in both concsious or unconscious states. According to the notion of Parallel Processing in the brain, analyzing the cause of slips of the tongue—“slips” of the brain, and supporting our analysis by ERP data from other researches, we propose that slips of the tongue can be categorized into conscious ones and unconscious ones. For the former the speaker more often than not tends to correct his mistake the moment it is spoken out while for the latter the speaker would not do it since he himself does not realize his own speech errors. It is proposed in the paper that the main cause of slips of the tongue is the contridiction of the parallel processing of the language information in the brain and the linear production of the speech, which leads to the confusion of the concepts in the utterance. Therefore, the speaker can avoid quite a few conscious slips of the tongue as long as he speaks attentively and calmly.
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