Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
In This Section
New journal!

Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Bergs, Alexander / Cohn, Abigail C. / Good, Jeff

1 Issue per year

See all formats and pricing
In This Section

Induced speech errors as a tool for language description: a case study from Xong “prenasalized consonants”

Karl Reza Sarvestani
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Linguistics, University at Buffalo, 609 Baldy Hall, Buffalo, New York 14260, USA
  • Email:
Published Online: 2015-10-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2015-0020


The task of language description often requires a linguist to make a choice between alternative hypotheses which cannot be satisfactorily decided by data obtained through traditional descriptive methods. This paper proposes induced speech error tasks as a means of extending the evidential base used to address descriptive questions. Much previous research has explored language-general cognitive processes underlying speech errors, but little work has investigated their potential as a tool for improving the description of language-specific phenomena. In part, this is because the collection of natural speech errors requires more time and a more certain knowledge of the structure of the language than descriptive linguists often have available. Induced speech error tasks, however, help overcome these limitations by allowing the rapid collection of speech error evidence which can aid in selection between competing analyses. Practical advice is offered for researchers considering implementing speech errors tasks in their own research. These points are then illustrated by an investigation of the segmental status of “prenasalized consonants” in Xong, an under-documented Hmongic/Miao language spoken in southern China. While traditional descriptive techniques were unable to resolve the question, a simple speech error-inducing task produced results which can be interpreted as support for a cluster analysis.

Keywords: language description; speech errors; prenasalized consonants; Miao/Hmongic; laboratory phonology


  • Baars, Bernard J. 1980. On eliciting predictable speech errors in the laboratory. In Victoria A. Fromkin (ed.), Errors in linguistic performance: Slips of the tongue, ear, pen and hand, 307–318. New York: Academic Press.

  • Baars, Bernard J. 1992. A dozen competing-plans techniques for inducing predictable slips in speech and action. In Bernard J. Baars (ed.), Experimental slips and human error: Exploring the architecture of volition, 129–150. New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

  • Bickmore, Lee S. 1989. Kinyambo prosody. University of California, Los Angeles dissertation.

  • Boersma, Paul & David Weenink. 2001. Praat, a system for doing phonetics by computer. Glot International 5(9/10). 341–345.

  • Clements, George N. 1985. The geometry of phonological features. Phonology Yearbook 2. 225–252.

  • Downing, Laura J. 1990. Problems in Jita tonology. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign dissertation.

  • Downing, Laura J. 2005. On the ambiguous segmental status of nasals in homorganic NC sequences. In Mark Oostendorp & Jeroen van de Weijer (eds.), The internal organization of phonologial segments, 183–216. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Frisch, Stefan A. & Richard Wright. 2002. The phonetics of phonological speech errors: An acoustic analysis of slips of the tongue. Journal of Phonetics 30(2). 139–162.

  • Fromkin, Victoria A. 1968. Speculation on performance models. Journal of Linguistics 4(1). 47–68.

  • Fromkin, Victoria A. 1971. The non-anomalous nature of anomalous utterances. Language 47(1). 27–52.

  • Goldrick, Matthew A. 2011. Linking speech errors and generative phonological theory. Language and Linguistics Compass 5(6). 397–412.

  • Guest, Daniel J. 2001. Phonetic features in language production: An experimental examination of phonetic feature errors. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign dissertation.

  • Hall, Tracy A. 2007. Segmental features. In Paul de Lacy (ed.), The Cambridge handbook of phonology, 311–334. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

  • Henrich, Joseph, Steven J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan. 2010. The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33(2/3). 61–135. [Web of Science]

  • Herbert, Robert K. 1986. Language waiver sals, markedness theory and natural phonetic-processes. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 1998. Documentary and descriptive linguistics. Linguistics 36(1). 161–195.

  • Hubbard, Kathleen. 1995. Syllable timing: Evidence from Runyambo and Luganda. Phonology 12(2). 235–256.

  • Hyman, Larry M. 1992. Moraic mismatches in Bantu. Phonology 9(2). 255–265.

  • Iwasaki, Noriko. 2007. Case particle errors in Japanese: Is the nominative ga a default case marker in sentence production? In Carson T. Schütze & Victor S. Ferreira (eds.), The state of the art in speech error research: Proceedings of the LS A Institute workshop, 205–220. Cambridge, MA: MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.

  • Ladefoged, Peter N. 2003. Phonetic data analysis: An introduction to fieldwork and instrumental techniques. Maiden, MA: Blackwell. [Web of Science]

  • MacKay, Donald G. 1971. Stress pre-entry in motor systems. The American Journal of Psychology 84(1). 35–51.

  • Maddieson, Ian. 2001. Phonetic fieldwork. In Paul Newman & Martha Ratliff (eds.), Linguistic fieldwork, 211–229. Cambridge, UK.

  • Maddieson, Ian & Peter N. Ladefoged. 1993. Phonetics of partially nasal consonants. Phonetics and Phonology 5. 251–301.

  • Meringer, Rudolf & Karl Mayer. 1895. Versprechen und verlesen, eine psychologischlinguistische studie [Misspeaking and misreading: A psycholinguistic study]. Stuttgart: Goschensche Verlagsbuchhandlung.

  • Meyer, Antje. 1992. Investigation of phonological encoding through speech error analysis: Achievements, limitations, and alternatives. Cognition 42(1). 181–211.

  • Mowrey, Richard & Ian MacKay. 1990. Phonological primitives: Electromyographic speech error evidence. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 88(3). 1299–1312.

  • Pérez, Elvira, Julio Santiago, Alfonso Palma & Padraig O’Seaghdha. 2007. Perceptual bias in speech error data collection: Insights from spanish speech errors. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 36(3). 207–235.

  • Pouplier, Marianne. 2003. Units of phonological encoding: Empirical evidence. Yale University dissertation.

  • Pouplier, Marianne & Louis Goldstein. 2005. Asymmetries in the perception of speech production errors. Journal of Phonetics 33(1). 47–75.

  • Riehl, Anastasia K. 2008. The phonology and phonetics of nasal obstruent sequences. Cornell University dissertation.

  • Shi, Rujin. 1997. Miao-Han/Han-Miao cidian (Xiangxi fangyan) [Miao-Chinese/Chinese-Miao dictionary (Xiangxi dialect)]. Changsha: Yuelu Chubanshe.

  • Stemberger, Joseph P. 1992. The reliability and replicability of naturalistic speech error data: A comparison with experimentally induced errors. In Bernard J. Baars (ed.), Experimental slips and human error: Exploring the architecture of volition, 195–215. New York: Plenum Press.

  • Wan, I-Ping. 1999. Mandarin phonology: Evidence from speech errors. State University of New York at Buffalo dissertation.

  • Wan, I-Ping. 2006. A psycholinguistic study of postnuclear glides and coda nasals in Mandarin. Journal of Language and Linguistics 5(2). 158–176.

  • Wan, I-Ping & Jeri J. Jaeger. 1998. Speech errors and the representation of tone in Mandarin Chinese. Phonology 15(3). 417–461.

  • Wan, I-Ping & Jeri J. Jaeger. 2003. The phonological representation of Taiwan Mandarin vowels: A psycholinguistic study. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 12(3). 205–257.

  • Wells-Jensen, Sheri. 1999. Cognitive correlates of linguistic complexity: A cross-linguistic comparison of errors in speech. State University of New York at Buffalo dissertation.

  • Wells-Jensen, Sheri. 2007. A cross-linguistic speech error investigation of functional complexity. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 36(2). 107–157.

  • Whalen, Douglas H. & Joyce M. McDonough. 2015. Taking the laboratory into the field. Annual Review of Linguistics 1. 395–415. [Web of Science]

  • Wilshire, Carolyn. 1999. The “tongue-twister” paradigm as a technique for studying phonological encoding. Language and Speech 42(1). 57–82.

  • Xiang, Rizheng. 1999. Jiwei Miaoyu yanjiu [A study of Jiwei Miao]. Chengdu: Sichuan Minzu Chubanshe.

  • Yang, Zaibiao. 2004. Miaoyu dongbu fangyan tuyu bijiao [Comparative dialectology of Eastern Miao]. Beijing: Zhongyang Minzu Daxue Chubanshe.

About the article

Received: 2015-03-30

Accepted: 2015-09-22

Published Online: 2015-10-16

Published in Print: 2015-12-01

Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2015-0020. Export Citation

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in