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Why sometimes words remain at the tip of the tongue



"What did it call? I swear that it's my tongue."

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 this phenomenon Tongue tip (PDL) – 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 that is does not discriminate.

"It is versatile and it happens to everyone not only Spanish, but English, Hebrew, French, etc. It happens to people of different ages, from children to older adults, ”says Lise Adams, professor of linguistic and cognitive sciences at Pomona College, California, USA.

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 Finger tip (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 part of the knowledge level (semantic), we know that we know the word, we have certainty and, on the other hand, the linguistic level (phonological). incomplete phonological activation occurs in the presence of complete semantic activation"explains David Facal, 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: "Human beings we represent words (and other words) on several levels: what it means (semantics), how they sound (phonology) and how they look (visual concepts). The marked lines represent the recovery process in the word it can be upset because of itrarely or recently, which reduces transmission through these connections e prevents word recovery or a word. Names the same they have a …specificity In addition Since then the system can decompose in the middle of each components: name or surname, other reason several episodes of PDL 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 impairment at some point it makes one of the sounds of the word not activated, then 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 researched and discovered the relationship between Punta de la Lengua episodes and moments of anxiety or stress change depending on agehe 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 he warns that "there is still much to explore in terms of emotional factors that can affect the phenomenon of language counseling ”.

The names themselves

Professionals consulted by BBC World are more likely to experience PDL 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 the flags, we can't look for a synonym. Then we will stay with the feeling that the tongue tip is "unpleasant".

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 they are more likely to suffer from PDL episodes.

Also, those who speak two or more languages.

"In case if. T bilingual peopleBecause they have two groups of sound types, they use sounds in both languages ​​less than one language speaker uses only one. And this reduction in usage can weaken access to 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 wordsas 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 they 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, "yes we have found relationship with processing speed. The speed to respond to stimuli would be positively related to the frequency of Punta de la Lengua phenomena, ”he explains.

How to prevent it?

Read, Read and Read.

This is the key recommendation of the experts.

"You must have life intellectually activetalk a lot, read a lot, write and keep control of cardiovascular risk factors such as exercise and healthy lifestyle, ”says Facal.

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

For instance, do not interrupt the conversation because the word does not appear. 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.


This article is part of the Hay Festival digital version Carthage, a meeting of writers and thinkers taking place in this city Colombian between January 31 and 3 no In February from 2019



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