Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Typing Slips

On the off chance that a linguist happens to fall across this blog...

I've heard that psycholinguists are interested in verbal slips, and what they can tell us about language cognition. Now, I originally (and accidentally, I swear!) typed "call" instead of "can" in that previous sentence, and had to go back and change it. In fact, I make typing slips like that quite often - especially if I'm tired and blogging late at night (both of which apply right now). So I was wondering... has there been any psycholinguistic research into typographical errors?

I would think that there's potential here for some interesting avenues of research. For example, do we make similar sorts of typing slips as we do verbal slips? Do people ever mistakenly type spoonerisms? Does phonology play a less crucial role in typing slips? Perhaps instead of saying a word that sounds similar to our intended one, we might type one that has a similar keyboard layout? (That would be interesting - suggesting that typists might develop a kinesthetic representation of words to complement the usual aural ones. Though I've never heard of anyone who 'types to themself' in their head instead of talking to themselves! Subconscious representations, perhaps?) Do semantic considerations play a greater role in verbal or typing slips? How about when we mistakenly jump ahead of ourselves and merge two words together (as would seem the most obvious explanation of my slip mentioned above) - is this more likely when typing?

That's just a few questions off the top of my head, there are surely many others worth pursuing. Do you know if anybody has pursued them yet?


  1. Yes, psycholinguists are interested in typing errors. One interesting thing to do is look at how they differ from speech errors. This can provide insight into how speech works. I have a list of examples somewhere. If I find them, I'll send them to you. 

    Posted by Chris

  2. Here's an example from a paper on a theory of speech production and language evolution. The paper can be found here.

    3.4 Speech and typing.A perspective on this dual-component view of speech production organization can be gained by comparing it with another language output behavior - typing. There is evidence to suggest that there is a considerable commonality between spoken language and typing - even copy typing - in early stages of the process of phonological output, stages in which there is a role of the lexicon. For example, Grudin (l981) found that on 11 of 15 occasions, copy typists spontaneously corrected the spelling of a misspelled word with which they were inadvertently presented. However typing does not posess an F/C mode of organization. Any typist knows that in contrast with spoken language, exchange errors occur not between units with comparable positions in an independently specified superordinate frame structure, but simply between adjacent letters (MacNeilage, l964). And this is true whether the units are in the same syllable or in different syllables. In addition, unlike in speech, there is no constraint against exchanging actions symbolizing consonants and actions symbolizing vowels. Vowel and consonant letters exchange with each other about as often as would be predicted from the relative frequency with which vowel letters and consonant letters appear in written language (MacNeilage, l985). Nespoulous et al (l985) have reported a similar freedom from phonotactic constraints of the language in agraphics.

    Posted by Chris

  3. Ah, very cool... thanks for that! 

    Posted by Richard


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