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Review of  Kids' Slips

Reviewer: Annette E. Hohenberger
Book Title: Kids' Slips
Book Author: Jeri J Jaeger
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 16.3588

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Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 13:45:35 +0100
From: Annette Hohenberger
Subject: Kids' Slips: What young children's slips of the tongue reveal
about language development

AUTHOR: Jaeger, Jeri J.
TITLE: Kids' Slips
SUBTITLE: What young children's slips of the tongue reveal about
language development
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2005

Annette Hohenberger, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and
Brain Sciences, Munich, Germany


''Kids' slips'', by Jeri J. Jaeger (henceforth, JJJ), is the first monograph
about young children's slips of the tongue (henceforth, SOTs), based
on the biggest collection sampled to date of child slips from
monolingual English-speaking children from 1;7 -- 5;11 years of age,
mostly stemming from her own three children, Anna (AN), Alice (AL),
and Bob(by) (B).

The book is organized into six chapters. In the first chapter, the SOT
approach to studying child language is introduced. In the second
chapter, children's and adults' slips are compared. The remaining four
chapters are devoted to phonetics/phonology, the lexicon, semantics,
and morphology/syntax. Each of these four chapters is self-contained
and may be read independently, although, of course, they build upon
each other and there is ample cross referencing. The body of the
book is followed by the complete and annotated corpus of the
children's slips (n = 1383).

The purpose of her book, according to the author herself, is (i) to use
children's slips as evidence for the development of linguistic
representations and language production planning in phonology,
morphology, syntax, and the lexicon and (ii) to lay out a common
methodology as to guide future researchers in their (cross-linguistic)
study of children's slips.

METHODOLOGY: How can we know if a child has made a slip? This
crucial methodological problem is only manageable if (i) the
researcher knows the current grammatical system of the child on the
background of which a systematic deviation due to lack of competence
can be ruled out and/or if (ii) the child possibly indicates a SOT herself
by means of a self-repair or otherwise shows signs of having erred
(such as looking confused). Given that the author has this intimate
knowledge of the three main subjects of the study -- her own children -
- and given that external error sources (unavoidable in a pencil-and-
paper collection) such as perceptional and collectors' biases have
been shown to not systematically distort off-line slip collections (for a
survey, see Poulisse, 1999), the methodological problem of child SOT
research can be considered as settled, in this study.

CLASSIFICATION: The SOTs have been arranged in a coherent
classification system which JJJ mainly takes over from adult SOT
research. The errors are classified according to:
this a phonological, lexical, syntactic, or propositional error?
(ii) the DIRECTIONALITY of the error, if it is a contextual/syntagmatic
error. Is this an anticipation, perseveration, or exchange?
(iii) the FORM of the error. Is this a substitution, addition, omission,
exchange, blend, telescoping, or multiple error?

COMPONENTS MODEL (RPC, pp 6-11) which is based on Levelt's
(Levelt, 1989, Levelt, Roelofs, and Meyer, 1999) serial-modular model
of language production but which extends it in specific ways. The RPC
model distinguishes representations in the long term memory such as
concepts, lemmas in the content lexicon, and forms in the form lexicon
on the one hand from planning processes in short term memory such
as lexical selection of words, determination of functional structures
and selection of syntactic structures on the other hand. All SOTs can
be allocated to respective levels of processing involving specific
linguistic representations. In any two-stage model of production,
access to a word's syntactic features and meaning (its lemma) and
morpho-phonological form happens on two different levels of planning.
Misselection due to semantic similarity may arise in the first stage
during lexical assignment to functional structure resulting in a
semantic substitution such as ''I wanna watch ... I wanna
listen to Baby Beluga'' (B-71, 2;6.2). Misordering of
phonological segments, however, happens in the second stage when
the word's form is accessed and its phonological units are filled into
the respective positional slots, resulting in e.g. an anticipation such
as ''A stecond story ... a second story'' (AL-235, 4;9.18) where the
phoneme [t] of ''story'' is anticipated and added to the planned
word ''second''.

CHILDREN'S vs. ADULTS' SLIPS: In order to compare children's to
adults' slips, JJJ had collected a reference corpus of n=716 adult
slips, which can be accessed at One
crucial precondition in this respect is that both children's and adults'
slips must be similar enough to fit into the same classification system
and model. In a global survey, JJJ establishes such a comparability in
terms of error types and error proportions. She concludes that
children's slips are very similar to adults' slips, overall. Differences in
the processing span of contextual errors, directionality, formal
structure, units, and self-corrections can be attributed to the
development of linguistic representation, working memory, and the
monitor. Given these overall similarities and specific differences, the
value of children's slips can be fully appreciated since ''they allow us
to tap into the time-course of the development of specific aspects of
language, by seeing how the substance of the errors changes over
time'' (p 90).

PHONETICS AND PHONOLOGY: Phonological SOTs are the most
common slips in adults as well as in children. Their onset indicates
that children no longer treat words as unanalyzed wholes but as units
with a structural frame and segmental content. The onset coincides
with the vocabulary spurt at around 18-21 months when children have
acquired a critical mass of about 50 words suggesting a major
reanalysis of words in the mental lexicon in terms of phonological
representation. From that time on ''... the segment has primary status
in the phonological aspects of young children's production planning''
(p 109). For both adults and children, it is feature similarity which
accounts strongest for the likelihood of a phonological SOT.
Consonantal phonological SOTs in which error and target segment
differ in only one of the five relevant distinctive features, namely place
of articulation (POA), +/-continuous, +/-fricative, +/-voice, and +/-
nasal, are most frequent. Vowels are less frequently affected by slips
than consonants, in both children and adults. In vowel errors, besides
feature distance, stress figures prominently: it is two stressed vowels
which are most likely involved in a vowel slip.

An excellent example of how children's slips can pinpoint the onset of
crucial developments in phonological representation and processing is
provided by allophonic variation. In adult slips, if a novel phonological
sequence is generated by the slip, the correct allophonic variant is
automatically produced, as in the (additive) anticipation ''siŋks inches''
<-- six inches (OC-88, 4;1), where the alveolar nasal [n] becomes a
velar nasal [ŋ]. Children, however, have to learn which allophones
there are and the rules producing the correct variants. Low-level
assimilations such as nasalization of the vowel before a nasal C or
POA assimilation of C's within a syllable (see above) are present from
the very outset whereas POA assimilation across syllables or (de-)
voicing of sonorants in C-cluster occurs only after 2 years of age,
when the relevant contexts have been acquired. Specific phonological
processes in English such as velarization of [l], +/-aspiration of
plosives, or tapping are learned even later.

The syllable as a supra-segmental domain constrains phonological
SOTs in adults in important ways. In languages with hierarchical
syllable structure such as English, the 'syllable position constraint'
allows only segments in identical syllable positions to interact, i.e.,
onset with onset, nucleus with nucleus, coda with coda. Until the
second year of life, however, infants entertain a more holistic
representation of the whole word which is successively refined into a
linear and hierarchical structure with highly specific phonological
content. Only after 2;2 years of age is the syllable position constraint
obeyed suggesting that the syllable has superseded the whole word
as basic structural unit of phonological processing (p 215). Moreover,
the prevalence of consonantal onset errors from 2;6 years on
suggests the mastery of the onset-rhyme analysis of English.

LEXICAL ERRORS: Lexical errors come in two kinds: paradigmatic
errors (substitution, blend) and syntagmatic errors (anticipation,
perseveration, exchange, telescoping). The former are due to
selection errors; the latter are due to linearization errors. Substitutions
also come in two kinds: semantic substitutions and formal
substitutions, so-called 'malapropisms'. While in both adults and
children, (besides same lexical category) semantic similarity is the
most influential factor accounting for a substitution (children 69%;
adults 70%), phonological similarity is less influential in children than it
is in adults (40% vs. 55%, p 282). This result suggests that of the two
big dimensions by which the mental lexicon is organized -- meaning
and form -- semantics is present earlier and remains more influential
than phonology which develops only later and plays a secondary role.
Besides categorical, semantic, and phonological similarity, other
factors, too, contribute to lexical errors, among them tonic stress,
previous utterance, rhythmic weight and environmental influences.
Usually, 3-5 such factors are involved in a single lexical slip.

Above all, identity of lexical category figures prominently in speech
error research as a severe constraint on the possible interaction of
words, often referred to as the 'grammatical category constraint' (for a
survey, see Poulisse, 1999). According to this constraint, nouns may
only interact with nouns, verbs with verbs, etc. On a more general
level, it also pertains to the two broad classes of lexical vs. functional
categories which also rarely interact. Identifying the onset of the
lexical category constraint is relevant to the question if young children
organize words in terms of lexical category from the very beginning or
not, and if not, in terms of which other system they may conceive of
them. At first glance, children seem to respect this constraint as much
as adults do (88% vs. 86,5%, p 291), from the outset. However, by
looking at the earliest lexical slips in the 1- and 2-word stage, JJJ finds
that they are strongly motivated by other than strictly lexical
categorical factors, mainly by conceptual but also phonetic similarity,
environmental and contextual influences. Given this strong
determination by non-linguistic factors, JJJ proposes to link the onset
of the lexical category constraint with the onset of syntax which both
start at around 2;6 years of age. This linking is also corroborated by
the finding that at around 3 years there is a (modest) peak of
syntagmatic as well as function word errors creating two coupled U-
shaped curves of development.

established that semantics has the strongest influence on lexical
errors from early on, JJJ asks further which the semantic relationships
are that figure importantly in this respect. For this purpose, she
develops a classification scheme (pp 320ff) comprising (i) taxonomic
sets ('fruit -- apple, pear'), (ii) non-taxonomic sets ('pillow -- blanket')
or co-members of a set ('Mommy -- Daddy'), (iii) partonomic sets
('hand -- finger'), (iv) contrastive relations ('slow -- fast'), (v) synonymy
('bunny -- rabbit'), (vi) associative relations (metonymy and
connotation), and (vii) function words (esp. pronouns). Conceptual-
semantic categories such as pairs of concrete actors belonging
together, often proper names such as 'Mommy -- Daddy', 'Bert --
Ernie', are among the first relationships and may be considered
precursors of more elaborate lexical-semantic taxonomies involving co-
hyponyms ('apple -- pear') under a common hyperonym ('fruit').
Overall, the semantic relations between words are strikingly similar in
children and adults: they mainly wallow in co-hyponymical relations,
followed by associative errors. However, the importance of the
relationships changes over time. In the beginning, binary coordinated
relations dominate. In this context, the ''lemma'' is an important
concept, mediating between conceptual and lexical semantics.
Consider the two interactants in a semantic substitution, ''watch''
and ''listen''. Conceptually, these are quite different actions -- lexical-
categorically, however, they make great co-hyponyms in a common
taxonomic hierarchy. The latter organization into lemmas amounts to
an abstraction over a semantic domain which supersedes a more
holistic conceptual organization of words. This reorganization takes
place between 1;7 and 2;6 years of age and is intimately related with
the onset of syntax.

MORPHOLOGY: Morphology is traditionally linked to syntax as well as
to lexical word formation processes. In syntax, inflectional
morphological affixes are attached to the syntactic frames, which
provide slots for lexical roots. In the lexicon, morphological affixes
attach to word frames and generate novel words. Morphological
errors come in three kinds: morphological shifts such as ''two
bubbles gum_'' (AL-11, 2;2), morphological substitutions such
as ''I've been suck-ed on'' <-- suck-ing (B-456, 5;1) and
root morpheme exchanges (so-called 'stranding' errors) such as ''my
run is nos-ing'' (AN-57, 2;7). Overall, inflectional
errors are more abundant than derivational errors, in children even
more so than in adults. Children do not yet have such a rich lexicon
with many derived words, whereas they do have already productive
syntactic processes. Since the bonds between roots and inflectional
affixes are weaker than the bonds between roots and derivational
affixes, there are more inflectional errors. Only highly productive
derivational morphemes are also stranding-prone (p 409).

Inflectional morphemes are strongly related to syntax and thus are
more frequent in syntagmatic errors (e.g. morpheme shifts) than in
paradigmatic errors (e.g. substitutions). Again, the onset of inflectional
morpheme shifts such as ''two bubbles gum_'' coincides with
the onset of syntax (p 405). It takes until 2;2 years of age for the child
to factor out the abstract morphemes and make them available as
affixes to syntactic frames. Since children do not know so many poly-
morphemic words, they have no reason to analyze their morphological
structure and to represent it in lexical entries. It takes even longer,
until the 6th year of life, until children can reliably segment stem and
bound morphemes correctly (p 456). During this time they commit
more morpheme shift errors than adults, in poly-morphemic words and
multi-word phrases, since the localization of the morpheme in the
respective word frame or syntactic template is not yet as fix as in
adults. Children show the same prevalence as adults of inflected
words to become involved in a stranding error as compared to derived

Like phonological similarity, morphological similarity, too, enhances the
likelihood of a lexical substitution error. The interactants share the
same morphological structure in children's as well as in adults' slips
(84% vs. 76.5%), most clearly when two mono-syllabic words are
involved. Adults, due to their bigger and more refined lexicons,
represent more morphological information and have more poly-
morphemic words (esp. Latinate words). The strongest argument for
the representation of morphemes in the form lexicon comes from
malapropisms: they always show higher morphological similarity as
opposed to semantic substitutions (86% vs. 81% for children, 81% vs.
74.5% for adults, p 443).

SYNTAX: Parallel to her claim of an early stage of a purely conceptual
organization prior to a lexical organization, JJJ also claims an early
semantic prior to a syntactic stage. The evidence against a syntactic
account comes from SOTs in the 1- and 2-word stage in which there
are (i) no morphological errors, there is (ii) no evidence of lexical
categories, (iii) no influence of morpho-semantic categories (such as
+/-transitive; mass/count noun), nor of (iv) phrasal tonic stress on
SOTs. Only upon entering into the 3-word-stage do all these features
appear (p 480).

The only SOT category directly related to syntax are phrasal blends
such as ''I won't let you to'' (AL-71, 2;10), a blend of ''I won't
let you
'' and ''I don't want you to'' (p 468). Along the lines of
the 'competing plans hypothesis' (Baars, 1992), phrase blends occur
when two equally suited syntactic frames for the same propositional
content are activated and the processor, instead of selecting one,
blends parts of both frames into a new hybrid phrase.

Early phrase blends tend to be local, involving two individual lexical
items whereas later, they become more global, involving advanced
syntactic knowledge and necessitating quite complex planning of multi-
phrasal sentences (p 474).


With ''Kids' slips'', JJJ has put forward the biggest collection of
children's slips to date, analyzed with an unprecedented level of
systematicity and specificity. This is the standard work on children's
slips -- an absolute must for every researcher in the field of language
acquisition and language production. ''Kids' slips'' is a highly significant
contribution to the field of ''developmental psycholinguistics'' in that it
investigates the on-line production of spoken language in young
children. Besides the impressive data base, the merits of this study lie
specifically in the theoretical explanation of the empirical data and
phenomena. JJJ shows in an illuminating way how children's SOTs
bear on specific research questions and longstanding controversies in
child language research.

In the following, I would like to highlight the main methodological
advantages (M1-M6), point out some problems (P1-4) and then
discuss some recurrent themes of the book (R1-R5).

JJJ sets very high methodological standards and lives up to them on
every of the 727 pages of this monograph.

pains to transcribe the children's utterances phonetically -- which
requires a decent amount of ''multi-tasking'' at the time they were
collected: being attentive and swift so as to notice the slip in the first
place, then bringing to bear her excellent competence in
phonetics/phonology to the task of noting down the slip as accurate as
possible while managing the ongoing complex everyday situation in
which the slip occurred. With such a detailed phonetic representation,
a basic requirement of objectivity of the data collection is satisfied.
The reliability of the data classification can be taken for granted since
she analyzes the child data base with the same classification system
as for the adults. With respect to the validity of the inferences drawn
from the data analysis, it is an indispensable necessity of the collector
to know the current competence of the children under observation, in
order to tease apart true performance errors (the SOTs) from
competence errors due to the ongoing development (pp 11ff). To fulfill
this requirement to the highest extent possible is a privilege of a
linguist-mother who, in a short and precious period of life, integrates
the otherwise contradictory twofold preoccupations of exhaustive daily
child care and excellent scientific research. By comparing the
children's slips to an adult reference corpus, she can factor out the
developmental effects which are at the heart of her study.

M2: THEORY-NEUTRAL FRAMEWORK: It is JJJ's explicit intention to
make her data collection available to researchers from various
theoretical approaches to language production (e.g., serial-modular
vs. interaction) as well as language acquisition. Therefore, she has
abstained from too narrow an analysis and rather chose some very
broad conceptions of language production and development such as
the 'competing plans hypothesis' (Baars, 1992) as an explanation of
the mechanisms behind SOTs and the 'frame-content metaphor'
(MacNeilage, 1998, MacNeilage and Davis, 1993) as an account of
language production development. However, she also takes a firm
stand with respect to the model in terms of which she analyzes her
data, viz. the Representations and Processing Components (RPC)
Model of Speech Production Planning, which is an advancement of
the Levelt model. She explicitly invites scholars from different accounts
to re-analyze her data in terms of their own models and encourages
them to collect children's slips in other languages in order to be able
to make cross-linguistic comparisons -- a big desideratum for future

same time she always compares her own results to those of other
child slip researchers, namely Stemberger (1989), Warren (1986),
Aitchison & Straf (1982), Poulisse (1999), and Wijnen (1992) as well
as to other adult corpora. Most of the times, her results converge with
those of the others. At times, however, she finds differences which call
for an explanation. In her comparison of the proportion of
paradigmatic lexical substitution errors which are related by semantics
or only by phonology, for example, she looks at eight different
corpora, child and adult. Although the numbers vary greatly from study
to study, they yield converging evidence for a prevalence of semantic
over formal errors. Differences in the samples stem from different
methodologies and classification systems. In this respect, she
underlines again the need for a common methodology and fully explicit
classification criteria (p 253). But obviously it is also sample size which
matters. While there are many large-scale adult slip corpora, hers is
the first child slip corpus at a comparable scale. Without belittling the
wealth and value of the other child corpora, JJJ's corpus sets the
standards for future child SOT research.

M4: HYPOTHESIS-TESTING: Related to her theory-neutral stance in
her basic methodology, she applies a classical hypothesis-testing
approach to her empirical data. She formulates a hypothesis, tests it
against her corpora, and explains the results in terms of her RPC
model. With respect to alternative models, she always makes explicit
what the data should look like if they were to fit in a specific model. To
give an example, she asks if there is feedback from the formal to the
semantic level in the child processor -- a hotly debated topic between
modular-serial and interactive models. From the lack of any formal
similarity in children's semantic substitutions she concludes that this is
most likely not the case (p 373). However, she does not conclude that
the interactive model is wrong, since (i) the effect is found in the adult
data of hers and other researchers and (ii) its lack in children can be
explained independently, e.g., in terms of their weaker monitoring

M5. NOVEL MEASURES: In her hypothesis testing approach, JJJ
often has developed novel measures or refined existing ones in order
to answer very specific questions, e.g., a measure of semantic
similarity between the two interactants in lexical errors or a score of
multiple converging influences on lexical errors. As for semantic
similarity, she comes up with seven categories (coordinate,
subsumative, contrastive, associative, and opposed relations,
synonyms, and pronouns), each with even finer subcategories to
which she submits the subset of lexical errors. She can show that it is
the opposed category which provides the first strong semantic
coupling between items, such as 'Mommy-Daddy', 'Bert-Ernie', and
that only later more taxonomic categories (co-hyponyms) are
established. Thus, concrete, frequent, and closely linked pairs are the
seeds of a later more refined and comprehensive lexical-categorical
system. As for the multiple motivations of lexical slips she has ranked
10 influences according to their causal strength and has determined
how many of them are found in each slip: (i) same lexical category, (ii)
semantic similarity, (iii) tonic stress, (iv) phonological similarity, (v)
utterance, (vi) weight, (vii -- x) various environmental and discourse
related influences (pp 282ff). She found that the most common
situation for both child and adult errors was that 3-4 influences
conspired in a lexical slip (3 for paradigmatic, 4 for syntagmatic slips),
suggesting that the planning mechanisms and lexical representations
are the same for children and adults. Some of these novel measures
are used for establishing baselines of chance frequencies against
which the frequencies of particular slip categories of features are
tested -- a very laborious undertaking but an indispensable control if
valid claims about effects are to be made.

M6. HYPOTHESIS-GENERATOR: The greatest asset of her analyses
is, however, not for direct reading but may only become realized in
future research. What I find most intriguing in this book is that it may
be used as an immensely rich generator of hypotheses to be tested in
subsequent experiments. The problems JJJ asks herself are so
precise and the application of the results in terms of particular models
are so informative that a straightforward translation of the problem into
a concrete experimental design is often self-evident. There is a whole
set of problems that lends itself to further experimental testing, such
as the lack of clear demarcation of syllables and distinction of the
syllable position in young children < 2 years of age, the preference for
binary oppositions in conceptualization, the interference of language
production by contextual distractors, or the stronger coupling of
production and perception, to name but a few. Any child
psycholinguist will greatly appreciate the research impetus by JJJ's
findings, providing a basis for further experimentation. The field of
developmental psycholinguistics would immensely benefit if such an
extended research cycle -- a broad corpus study followed by specific
experiments enabling a reappraisal of the original findings -- could be
established in child slip research. It is only recently that the synergy
arising from the integration of different kinds of linguistic evidence --
through corpus linguistics and experimental approaches -- has
become widely acknowledged (Kepser and Reis, 2005).

There are a couple of problematic aspects which make the reading
and working through of this exceptional book quite hard sometimes.
Having said this, I hasten to add that these problems are partly
inevitably, given the very nature of the data.

comprehensive book about children's slips ever written with the
biggest corpus of children's slips ever collected. This wealth of data is
a mercy and a curse at the same time. On the one hand, slips are
probabilistic in nature and major insights can be gained by looking at
statistical distributions and frequencies, as in a nomothetic/quantitative
approach. On the other hand, each slip is unique and deserves a
careful analysis on its own, as in an idiomatic/qualitative approach. JJJ
runs the risk of giving a too in-depth account of single slips and
getting lost in too many details, at times, e.g., what the semantic
differences between 'holes' and 'patches' are in a semantic
substitution (p 362). After having gathered all these slips, Jaeger falls
prey of hunting down each single one in her analysis until it has
revealed all its marvels to us. However, this weakness is readily
forgiven, since it is scientifically highly satisfying to follow JJJ through
all the ramifications of e.g. the phonological structure of a particular
SOT. After all, each single slip is a universe and deserves being
admired for its intricacy and beauty, take for example the meanwhile
legendary slip ''Not by the chair of my hinny
hin hin'' (Jaeger, 1992). Moreover, this meticulous
analysis is greatly amended for by excellent summaries at the end of
each chapter and subchapter.

P2: ANALYSIS TECHNIQUE: The major analytic tool JJJ uses is
descriptive frequency statistics, which she displays in tables. Overall,
this monograph contains 91 tables which resemble each other very
closely. In a typical table, the frequencies of slip types XYZ are
tabulated at the ages 1,2,3,4, and 5, a total is drawn an compared to
the adults. But honestly, what else can one do about a slip corpus?
JJJ has excessively exploited the tool of descriptive statistics and has
gained major insights in doing so. She has made the best of this plain
methodology, risking to bore the reader at times. Also, the lack of any
inferential statistics is not worth complaining, as JJJ notes herself (p
48). Not much would be gained, indeed, by knowing that e.g. the
frequencies for malapropisms in children vs. adults differ significantly.
The only reasonable thing one can do about differences in the
distributions, be they big or small, is to come up with good
explanations in terms of a processing and developmental model and
to look for further evidence corroborating particular findings. The
search for novel measures (see M5) is surely related to the somewhat
restricted statistical possibilities of analyzing the data.

P3. CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM: There is a slight oddity in the
classification system insofar as JJJ does not primarily classify SOTs in
terms of error unit (segment, morpheme, word, phrase) but with
respect to processing stage, directionality, and form of the error. This
is fine but in the case of lexical errors it leads to an artificial disruption
of the unit 'word' which appears twice, on the two processing
levels, 'lexical' and 'syntactic'. While it is certainly true that
paradigmatic semantic substitutions and syntagmatic word
anticipations occur on different processing levels, they involve the
same unit, though. This division is actually overcome in chapter (4) on
lexical errors where she looks at e.g. semantic and phonological
similarity of both paradigmatic and syntagmatic lexical errors. This is
not to say that her classification system is wrong -- it is not. It is just a
matter of perspective. A unit such as 'word' can be involved in
different kinds of errors on different stages of processing (lemma
retrieval, syntactic serialization). However, the unit 'word' can also be
tracked across processing levels.

P4. ERRATA: As is inevitable in such an opus, there are some very
minor errors and typos. They are not the least disruptive and most of
them will go unnoticed by the reader anyway. JJJ has registered them
faithfully in a list of errata, which she kindly made available to me.
Those who have bought the book may address JJJ by e-mail and ask
her to send them the list of errata. The errors will certainly be
corrected in the next edition of this book.

There are a couple of recurrent themes in this book relating to deep
issues of language production and development.

(1998, MacNeilage and Davis, 1993) 'frame-content' metaphor very
well suited to account for the development in various processing
domains, namely in phonology (where segments are filled into the
slots of syllabic frames), morphology (where morphemes are fit into
word frames), and syntax (where words are inserted into phrasal or
sentential templates). A principled explanation of this similarity across
structural levels is given by MacNeilage and Davies in terms of a
species-specific organizational property of speech. In the evolution of
the speech production process, independent control of structural
frames and their content has emerged, possibly sustained by different
cortical areas. In language production, the 'slots-and-filler model' of
Shattuck-Hufnagel (1979) and subsequent models provide an
explanation of how slots in a planned word become filled with
segments, thus accounting for serialization and also for errors of

DEVELOPMENT: JJJ finds striking evidence for the coincidence of
serialization of segments within syllables with the onset of syntax at
around 2;2 years of age (for a diagrammatic representation of the
acquisition of syllable structure, see p 183). She accounts for this
parallel in terms of a general systems strategy of dealing with growing
complexity. ''Thus this linearization seems to appear throughout the
linguistic system at approximately the same point in time, as the child's
utterances become more complex and require a higher level of
organization'' (p 183). The issue of linearization is intimately related to
the frames-content issue above. The frames, in MacNeilage's terms,
allow for the content units to become linearized by inserting them into
the frame's pre-specified slots. From a generative perspective, the
relation between hierarchy and linear order has most thoroughly been
discussed by Kayne (1993). His 'Linear Correspondence Axiom' (LCA)
requires the syntactic phrase marker to exclusively specify binary a-
symmetric relations between structural positions such as specifier and
head or head and complement so that the respective terminal
elements (words) will not be in too symmetric a relation to one
another. Only through asymmetry can an unambiguous linearization of
elements be provided. Linearity is a crucial constraint on the
articulatory-perceptual interface of spoken languages since the single
temporal dimension of speech requires units to become strictly
serialized. Syntagmatic errors and blends are speech errors that
relate to this major constraint on language processing. JJJ has shown
in the respective chapters how this ability evolves simultaneously
across units (segments, morphemes, words) and levels of processing
(phonological, morphological, and syntactic). In phonology, this
development -- first frame, then content -- leads to the emergence of
segments as basic content units and syllables instead of words as
basic supra-segmental frames. Until the second year of life, around
2;2, infants entertain a holistic representation of the whole word as a
frame which, successively, is refined into a syllabic representation
which is now a linear and hierarchical structure with highly specific
phonological content. In this respect, Levelt speaks of
the 'phonologization of the lexicon' (1998, 175): by way of indexing
structural positions such as onset, nucleus, and coda with matching
consonants and vowels of the word, the child becomes able to
distinguish huge numbers of syllabic gestures in the syllabary and
thereby creates the precondition for rapidly acquiring more lexical
items, as in the vocabulary spurt. According to Levelt, the
phonologization of the lexicon is followed by the 'grammaticalization of
the lexicon' at around 2;6 years of age. It is now the lemma
information which becomes refined as to include information about the
argument structure and theta grid of verbs. With this information, the
processor can build up hierarchical sentential frames into which words
are inserted. Note that JJJ assumes a coincidence of phonologization
and grammaticalization of the lexicon whereas Levelt assumes a slight
developmental prominence of the former over the latter. Both
accounts, however, capture the important insight of a parallel
structural development and also give the same explanation in terms of
an emergent strategy of dealing with growing complexity.

AND VOWELS: Another aspect of this parallel is manifested in the
similarity in the behavior of nouns and consonant on the one hand
and verbs and vowels in SOTs on the other hand. Both nouns and
consonants are affected by slips above average, verbs and vowels,
however, below average (even if frequency is controlled for). Why is
this so? JJJ reasons that verbs as well as vowels are the core anchor
of their respective structures, the syllable and the phrase. Their
selection is a central issue on which the system obviously spends
considerable effort. The significance of this parallel behavior is most
clearly expressed in Carstairs-McCarthy's (1999) assumption that the
noun-verb distinction actually derived from the consonant-vowel
distinction as its evolutionary antecedent. Crucially, both nouns and
consonants occupy parallel structural positions around the nucleus --
consonants occupy onset and coda positions, nouns occupy specifier
and complement positions. Vowels occupy the nucleus in a syllable
and verbs the head position in a phrase, respectively.

R4. THE ROLE OF LEXICON SIZE: Young children build up a mental
lexicon in an amazingly short time. JJJ discusses how the lexicon
develops with respect to the two major dimensions -- meaning and
form. Form does not play a role in very young children's lexicons.
Semantics, however, is relevant from the very beginning. She traces
how the complex semantic network of adults with various taxonomic
levels in the vertical dimension emerges from the first simple,
concrete, binary oppositions such as 'Mommy -- Daddy', 'Bert --
Ernie', 'see -- hear' which only exist on a horizontal plane. She argues
that lexicon size is the crucial driving force behind structure-building in
the lexicon leading not only to an intricate semantic network but also
to the emergence of morphology as an interface between form and
meaning. It is the increasing number of lexical entries (of increasing
length) which necessitates a formal morphological analysis. There has
to be a rich substrate from which semantic as well as morphological
dimensions can be factored out. This factoring out leads to a more
coherent organization of lexical elements in terms of lexical semantics
and morpho-phonological structure. Again, hierarchical structure is an
emergent solution to the problem of handling a critical mass of lexical
items in an economic way.

R5. INFLECTION vs. DERIVATION: Inflected and derived words
behave differently in processing, as is well known. In the Levelt model,
this difference is accounted for by treating inflected words such
as ''read -- read-s'' as a single lemma (with diacritics for the functional
information added by the inflection) but treating derived words such
as ''read -- read-er'' as separate lemmas. JJJ accumulates rich
evidence that inflected and derived words also behave differently in
child SOTs. That inflectional suffixes are (i) only loosely integrated into
their host word, (ii) extra-syllabic, (iii) detach more easily (iv) belong to
syntax more closely is evidenced by a higher frequency of morpheme
shifts (''bubble-s gum_''), stranding errors (''my run is
nos-ing''), suffix substitution (''turn-ing'' <-- talk-
ing) (p 409), and suffix adding. That derivational suffixes show exactly
the opposite behavior is evidenced by SOTs such as ''cold'' <--
clos-ed where an un-derived word (''cold'') substitutes for a
derived word (''closed''), without stranding its derivational suffix (*cold-
ed, p 413). For the same reason, stranding errors and suffix
substitutions are rarer with derived words. Thus, the different
representation of derivational and inflectional morphology is also
corroborated by child and adult SOTs.


''Kids' slips'' is JJJ's life work. It has only become possible by the
curiosity and versatility of a very attentive mother-linguist observing
her three children growing up and acquiring language during the first
five years of their lives. Later on it required a decent amount of
stamina to sift the more than thousand SOTs and to analyze them
which she did with admirable accuracy and specificity. The fruits of
this long lasting enterprise are now available to the benefit of all. JJJ
explicitly invites us to re-analyze her data or to start collecting
children's slips in the same way as she did, preferably cross-
linguistically, so as to evaluate and extend her findings in the future.


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Annette Hohenberger is a German psycholinguist who has done
research on first language acquisition, spoken and sign language
production, and the early cognitive development of infants. In
particular, she has done research on slips of the hand and tongue
and collected a (yet unpublished) extensive corpus of German child

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