assemblage error (words)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

assemblage error
Shel Silverstein, Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook (HarperCollins, 2005). (Getty Images)

Definition

In speech and writing, an assemblage error is an unintentional rearrangement of sounds, letters, syllables, or words. Also called a movement error or slip of the tongue.

As linguist Jean Aitchison explains below, assemblage errors "provide important information about the way humans prepare and produce speech."

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:


Examples and Observations

  • "A . . . common form of assemblage error is anticipation, which occurs when a person utters a word or sound too early. Instead of saying that he or she is about to make an 'important point,' a person might anticipate the 'oi' sound and say 'impoitant point.' Words can also be anticipated, as in the phrase 'when you buy the laundry,' instead of 'when you take the laundry, buy me some cigarettes.' In other cases, people sometimes repeat sounds, saying a 'tall toy' instead of a 'tall boy.' These mistakes most frequently occur close together, within a single phrase. This suggests that people plan the entire phrase before saying it, choosing and arranging several words at a time and then occasionally misassembling the parts."
    (William D. Allstetter, Speech and Hearing. Chelsea House, 1991)
     
  • Main Types of Assemblage Errors
    - "These misorderings are of three main types: anticipations (premature insertion), as in she shells 'sea shells,' exchanges or transpositions (place swapping), as in cling spreaning 'spring cleaning,' and perseverations (repetitions), as in one-way woad 'one-way road.' Such errors provide important information about the way humans prepare and produce speech: for example, the large number of anticipations, compared with perseverations, indicates that humans are thinking ahead as they speak, and are able to erase the memory of what they have said quite fast. Assemblage errors contrast with selection errors, in which a wrong item has been chosen. Together, these form the two major subdivisions within slips of the tongue (speech errors). A similar distinction can be made within slips of the pen (writing errors), and slips of the hand (signing errors)."
    (Jean Aitchison, A Glossary of Language and Mind. Oxford University Press, 2003)


    - "Not all slips fit neatly into one or other of the categories suggested earlier. For example, is conversation for 'conservation' a selection error, in which one similar-sounding word has been picked instead of another? Or an assemblage error, in which the [s] and [v] were reversed? Or what about the student who, describing her new boyfriend, said 'He's such a lovely huskuline man.' Was this a genuine blend, in which the similar-meaning words husky and masculine had been bundled together, when she meant to say only one? Or was it a 'telescopic' blend, in which two adjacent words had been telescoped together in a hurry, so that what she had really meant to say was 'husky AND masculine'? Or what went wrong in the slip peach seduction for 'speech production'? This one is especially hard to categorize."
    (Jean Aitchison, Words in the Mind: An Introduction to the Mental Lexicon, 4th ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)
     
  • Implications of Movement (Assemblage) Errors
    "[M]ovement errors have provided a basis for claims that sentence-planning processes proceed in distinct processing levels, and that lexical and segmental content are significantly dissociated from their phrasal environments in the computational processes that build sentence form. . . .

    "The two levels of sentence processing indicated by the movement errors correlate directly with two major types of lexical processing implied by the patterns of lexical substitution errors. The two levels of sentence structure motivated by the several types of movement errors may plausibly be associated, respectively, with a conceptually driven process that provides lexical content for abstract syntactic structures, and with a form-driven process that associates the phonological descriptions of words with their phrasal environments."
    (Merrill F. Garrett, "Lexical Retrieval Process: Semantic Field Effects." Frames, Fields, and Contrasts: New Essays in Semantic and Lexical Organization, ed. by Adrienne Lehrer and Eva Feder Kittay. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1992)
     
  • The Lighter Side of Assemblage Errors
    "Once a time upon, a gritty little pearl named Little Rude Riding Head had a gasket for her branny.

    "She had . . .
    . . . a broaf of homemade lead,
    . . . a wottle of bine,
    . . . grapples and apes,
    . . . three or four belly jeans,
    . . . a bag of pollilops,
    . . . some shop chewey,
    . . . a twelve-inch peese chizza
    . . . some sicken noodle choop,
    . . . some plack-eyed bees,
    . . . and a bottle of boot rear."
    (Rob Reid, Something Funny Happened at the Library: How to Create Humorous Programs for Children and Young Adults. American Library Association, 2003)