Friday, July 25, 2014

Why I can't talk: Mechanism underlying speech fluency circa 1849

From the Scientific American archives, 1849, Vol. 4, p. 174:

The common fluency of speech, in many men and women, is owing to a scarcity of words, for whoever is master of language, and hath a mind full of ideas, will be apt in speaking, to hesitate upon the choice of both; whereas, common speakers have only one set of ideas, and one set of words to clothe them in, and these are always ready; so people come faster out of church when it is nearly empty, than when a crowd is at the door.  
Yeah, that's why I can't talk.  My mind is too full of ideas.  


Brad Buchsbaum said...

It's an interesting idea though.

Larger vocabulary = more competition during selection.

There are examples of great writers who are poor speakers (Nabokov once wrote: "I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, but I speak like a child") as well as good writers who are exceptional speakers: Christopher Hitchens comes to mind. Hitchens talked almost exactly as well as he wrote.

Greg Hickok said...

It IS an interesting idea, probably with a nugget of truth in it (e.g., the neighborhood density effect).

The thing about writing is that the time pressure is removed. So there are two things: the ability to translate ideas into a coherent sequence of words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters; and the ability to do it on the fly.

Oh, than theirs speling, witch continuelly hants me.