LINGUIST List 9.1006

Mon Jul 6 1998

Sum: Repetition phenomenon

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  • Amy McManus, Summary

    Message 1: Summary

    Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 16:16:03 -0000
    From: Amy McManus <>
    Subject: Summary

    In my query 9-856 I inquired about the phenomenon that occurs in language perception when a word repeated over & over suddenly looks or sounds odd and unfamiliar. I would like to thank the following for their informative responses:

    Susan Ervin-Tripp Karin Stromswold Lynne Murphy Carson T. Schutze Tracy Mansfield Suzette Haden Elgin Gisbert Fanselow & Reinhold Kliegl Mike O'Connell Markus Hiller

    The majority of respondents identified the phenomenon as "semantic satiation", and noted that it has been studied in the field of psychology for some time (S.Ervin-Tripp, K.Stromswold, C.Schutze, M.OConnell).


    "Wallace Lambert talked about it in his research on bilinguals..."(S.Ervin-Tripp).

    "..the primary investigation of the phenomenon was done by Heinz Werner before and after the world war" (G.Fanselow & R.Kliegl).

    "When I was a grad student, we would discuss this in class and were told that it was analogous to the way that, if you keep clenching and unclenching your fist, you will suddenly discover that you're able to do it again - there's a temporary paralysis due to muscle fatigue" (S.Haden Elgin).

    "I understand you are studying linguistic kinds of "jamais-vu" (coined in analogy to "deja-vu" i.e. unknown as experienced as "recognized", jamais-vu denotes the converse, i.e. well known experienced as "not recognized"). I found this term in a textbook on cognitive psychology (Lindsay/Norman 1977)." (M.Hiller)

    Tracy Mansfield cited her 1997 dissertation, a portion of which was relevant to this topic, being concerned with the perception of speech sounds vs. more arbitrary environmental sounds. She also says "It has always fascinated me how a deliberate extraction of a sequence from its context can cast it as noise. You might also decide to treat this as a phenomenon that occurs across sensory modalities. It is addressed in a lot of the literature on object recognition.."

    Thank you again to all for such nourishing response. Amy E. McManus