LINGUIST List 9.1006

Mon Jul 6 1998

Sum: Repetition phenomenon

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  1. 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

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

"..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

"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
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue