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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Thinking Out Loud- Sunday Book Review by CHRISTINE KENNEALLY

In “Um...,” Michael Erard brings together two of humanity’s signature traits: using language and messing things up. The way we misspeak is endlessly interesting, but not because it is a sign of bad habits or unconscious feelings. Rather, interruptions and mistakes result from one of the fundamental properties of language, its linearity. Because speech is timebound and words can come only one after the other, the way we stall, stumble and start again provides clues to the way we render thought with sound. Indeed, what is stilted, stuttered and slipped on illuminates how we retrieve words from memory, how we plan ahead of speech, how we unite meaning and intonation in real time, and how we acquire language in the first place.

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