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Why do you sometimes keep the words "at the tip of the tongue" and how do you prevent it?

Have you ever had to say a word or name a person and you can't do it?

It was for you at the tip of the tongue, and you came with frustration and emptiness.

Well, don't worry first.

We are all victims of the Punta de la Lengua (PDL) phenomenon – yes, science called it – and we will be again.

But why is this happening? What does it most affect?

Universal phenomenon

There is something special about the Punta De la Lengua phenomenon and it is not discriminatory.

"It is versatile and it happens to all speakers of different languages, not only Spanish, but English, Jewish, French, etc. It happens to people of different ages, from children to older adults," says Lise Adams, Professor of Pomonas College, California, US, and Cognitive Sciences.

And this is not just a phenomenon that happens in the oral language. It also happens to people who speak sign languages, a phenomenon called Punta Del Dedo (TOF, its acronym in English).

What's going on in our brain?

People need access to certain sounds to pronounce words.

And for various reasons, access to these sounds is weakened or stopped. Then we can't issue them when they need them.

"On the one hand, we can talk about a part of the knowledge level (semantic), we know that we know the word, we have certainty, and on the other hand, what is created at the linguistic (phonological) level is incomplete phonological activation. presence of complete semantic activation, ”explains David Felix, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

"Sometimes we know the first letter, the syllable, but we can't fully recover the word," he told BBC Mundo.

"Because it is an interrupted thought, and we stay there, it is also a window to find out how we think, and so has been interested in this phenomenon since the nineteenth century," Facal adds.

Note on chart: "People represent words (and other words) at several levels: what it means (semantics), how they sound (phonology), and how they look (visual concepts), a break due to unusual or recent, which reduces transmission through these connections, Special names have special additional information because the system can be split between each component: first name, surname, another reason why PDL episodes may occur in real words in other words, ”explains Adams.

Why is this happening?

There are several hypotheses, although there is no certainty about exactly what causes the PDL phenomenon.

"Fatigue, fatigue, age and cognitive deterioration at some point make one of the word sounds dormant, so the full lexical form of the word cannot be pronounced," Facal reveals.

However, Adams indicates that there is no adequate data to support this idea.

"We studied and found that the relationship between Punta de la Lengua episodes and moments of anxiety or stress varies with age," he says.

According to Adams, in his studies with his colleagues, older adults reported PML episodes during anxiety. But middle-aged adults who were exposed to stress situations had fewer PDL episodes.

"So maybe those who are worried about some people may be helpful in recovering words that cannot be pronounced, expert analysis.

Although warns that "there is still much to explore in terms of emotional factors that can be a significant phenomenon in language counseling."

The names themselves

For specialists who are consulted by BBC World, the PDL phenomenon occurs more often with real words.

Basically because there is no other possible word to define this person.

"Let's take Antonio Bander as an example, we know he is an actor who is Spanish who is in Hollywood, who is dark, and all that comes along with Bander," says Facal.

"But if we can't activate flags, we can't look for a synonym, so we'll stay with this discomfort at the tip of our tongue."

However, "if we want to say the word" red "and it doesn't come, we could say it is red, it's tomato color, etc.", he explains.

What's more?

Studies conducted so far show that people over 60 years of age with normal cognitive aging are more exposed to PML.

Also, those who speak two or more languages.

"In the case of bilingual people, because they have two types of sound, they use less frequent sounds in two languages ​​than a one-language speaker who only uses one. It weakens access to the sounds that need to be pronounced," says Adams.

Both experts say that when they get older, the episodes of PML are more common. And this happens with words that we don't usually use.

An alarm sounds when it is difficult to compile very common or frequently used words, such as everyday objects. "It could be an indication of something that is not normal," warns the professor of language and cognitive science.

Is PML Related to Dementia?

Specialists throw it away.

"According to what we have found, the frequency of the Punta de la Lengua phenomenon is relatively independent of the capacity of work memory," emphasizes the Facal of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

"What is happening in dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, is that not only lexical access changes, but also word knowledge is transformed," he explains.

However, "we have found a relationship with the processing speed, the speed of response to the stimuli would be positively related to the frequency of the end-tongue," he explains.

How to prevent it?

Read, Read and Read.

This is the key recommendation of the experts.

"You have to be an intellectually active life, a lot to speak, to read, write and maintain risk control at a cardiovascular level, such as physical exercise and healthy life," says Facal.

Although the recommendation for people with normal cognitive aging is directed towards semantic activation.

For example, don't stop the conversation because the word does not come up. Continue talking and give more words and qualities until it appears.

Or "if you know that some words cause you problems remembering them, try to use them more often in conversation, you'll definitely stop the Punta de la Lengua episodes," Adams says.

"It's not something to worry about, most people suffer from it, it's even healthy and normal, and it will happen to you throughout your life," concludes Adams.


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