Self-Monitoring and Self-Repair in Spontaneous Speech

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study explores what repairs in the spontaneous production of speech reveal about the psycholinguistic processes of self-monitoring and self-repair. Three intervals were examined: error-to-cut off; cut off-to-repair; error-to-repair. The intervals indicate support theories of internal speech monitoring, and also indicate that the planning of speech-repairs can take place pre-articulatorily as well [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

Key words: error-detection, Perceptual Loop Theory, self-monitoring, speech production, self-repairs.

Self-repairs are self-initiated corrections of one's own speech within the same speaking turn (Postma, 2000; Schegloff, Jefferson, & Sacks, 1977). They are a normal phenomenon in spontaneous speech, and are produced in response to a linguistic problem, such as the inability to retrieve lexical items, and the incorrect use of pronunciation, lexis or syntax. These problems can be overtly detected, but it has also been posited that they can be detected in inner or pre-articulatory speech by some form of speech monitoring mechanism inherent in the speech production process (Laver 1969 & 1980; Levelt, 1983 & 1989; van Wijk & Kempen, 1987). Repairs can be produced with the related problem being partly produced, where speakers cut their speech off in the midst of a word. Alternatively, speakers may produce hesitation in their speech, such as filled pauses (e.g. ah, ahm, er), silent pauses and prolonged segments (Pillai, 2004). A simplified diagram of the process of self-monitoring is shown in Figure 1.

It has been shown that self-repairs can be regarded as a manifestation of a "quality control" (Hieke, 1981, p. 148), a mechanism present in the process of speech production to correct pre-articulatory or post-articulatory errors. In order for self-repairs to take place, there must be an awareness that an error is about to be, or has been produced by the speaker. Hence, the concept of self-repair is consistent with the idea that self-monitoring occurs in the process of speech production. There have been attempts to explain the relationship between monitoring and self-repair in speech, particularly to account for the following phenomena:

(i) how and when errors are detected and corrected

(ii) how soon after error detection speech is interrupted

One of the main theoretical models explaining how speech is monitored and repaired is the Perceptual Loop Theory (Levelt, 1983; 1989). Based on a corpus of repairs made in the spontaneous speech of adult speakers of Dutch, Levelt (1983, 1989) formulated a theory to account for both monitoring and repairing in speech. The theory is based on the premise that speakers monitor their own speech just as they monitor the speech of others (Levelt, 1983; Levelt, Roelofs, & Meyer, 1999). Levelt divided self-repairs into three major phases:

(i) monitoring and interrupting speech whenever trouble is detected

(ii) hesitating and pausing (characterised by the use of silent or filled pauses)

(iii) repairing disfluent speech.

In Levelt's speech production model, the generation of an idea or message of an intended utterance occurs at the Conceptualizer. At this stage of conceptualization, the message can be monitored, for example for appropriateness. The speaker might need to decide, for instance, on the right choice of word to express a particular idea based on his knowledge of the social rules governing language use. If the process of monitoring at this stage finds the message to be inappropriate for some reason, a new message can be generated. A preverbal message that goes through this stage goes in as input into the Formulator, which turns this concept into a linguistic structure. This is done through the process of lemma selection, where a lemma is retrieved from the mental lexicon (where information about the lemma's meaning, syntactic, morphological and phonological features are available). …


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