Speech errors in Chinese : a psycholinguistic study




Yang, Wei

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Speech errors in normal speech provide important information about the processing mechanisms of speaking, one of the most complex cognitive, linguistic, and motor skills that human beings use for communication. Studies of speech errors form a major part of psycholinguistic research on speech production, but until recently such research has been largely based on the evidence from only a few European languages. In contrast to most speech error analyses in English, this dissertation focuses on the discussion of speech errors in Chinese, illustrating that speech errors featuring Chinese language-specific characteristics imply some processing steps that are not observed in previous speech production models. Similarities between speech errors in Chinese and English in terms of their patterns and classification suggest universality in speech production disorders in normal speech, but language-specific characteristics of the two languages suggest that English and Chinese speakers experience different processing steps in speech production, and err at different rates in different domains. For example, tonal errors in Chinese indicate that Chinese speakers undergo a special phonological process sub-step for tonal specification, this sub-step involves tone sandhi rule application, a processing task that does not concern non-tonal language speakers. A second example arises when, in the course of articulating a retrieved lexical item, the logophonographic features of the Chinese writing system provide phonological information about the lexical item through a processing step of "mental visualization". Partial visualization or incorrect phonological processing of the mentally visualized items can lead to errors of the logo-phonographic type which are not found in alphabetic languages such as English. Third, bilingual errors show that mixing of syntactic and phonological features of two different languages can occur when speech is being planned by bilingual speakers. Lastly, socio-cultural values in Chinese, such as those that involve address patterns and kinship term systems, can lead to errors that are rarely experienced by English speakers. Such different types of speech errors found in Chinese provide evidence that speech in Chinese is mediated by certain steps that have not been described in the many speech production models based on evidence derived from English errors. In general agreement with the functional-positional speech production model of Garrett (1975. 1988) and the overall language production schema of Levelt (1989. 1992), this dissertation argues for a unified speech production model that describes each of the ordered steps in the speech production process, including conceptualization, formulation, and articulation. Such a model does not overemphasize either the linguistic or psychological factors that cause speech errors. In order to precisely account for speech errors of all types in all natural languages, this model involves a set of ordered cognitive activities with psychological, linguistic, socio-cultural and contextual factors under full consideration.



Chinese language, Speech errors, Psycholinguistics