Motor movement matters: The flexible abstractness of inner speech

Gary M. Oppenheim, Gary S. Dell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Inner speech is typically characterized as either the activation of abstract linguistic representations or a detailed articulatory simulation that lacks only the production of sound. We present a study of the speech errors that occur during the inner recitation of tongue-twister-like phrases. Two forms of inner speech were tested: inner speech without articulatory movements and articulated (mouthed) inner speech. Although mouthing one's inner speech could reasonably be assumed to require more articulatory planning, prominent theories assume that such planning should not affect the experience of inner speech and, consequently, the errors that are "heard" during its production. The errors occurring in articulated inner speech exhibited the phonemic similarity effect and the lexical bias effect-two speech-error phenomena that, in overt speech, have been localized to an articulatoryfeature- processing level and a lexical-phonological level, respectively. In contrast, errors in unarticulated inner speech did not exhibit the phonemic similarity effect-just the lexical bias effect. The results are interpreted as support for a flexible abstraction account of inner speech. This conclusion has ramifications for the embodiment of language and speech and for the theories of speech production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1147-1160
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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