The online collection of the English pundit's lectures.

Have you experienced this before?

The tip of the tongue (TOT or Tot or Presque vu, from the French for “almost seen”) phenomenon is an instance of knowing something that cannot immediately be recalled. TOT is an experience with memory recollection involving difficulty retrieving a well-known word or familiar name.

When experiencing TOT, people feel that the blocked word is on the verge of being recovered. Despite failure in finding the word, people have the feeling that the blocked word is figuratively “on the tip of the tongue.” Inaccessibility and the sense of imminence are two key features of an operational definition of TOTs (A.S. Brown, 1991).

The TOT has been studied using three different subdisciplines as approaches: psycholinguistics, memory perspectives, and metacognition. Most research to date concerning TOTs has come from the psycholinguistic perspective. This perspective focuses on TOTs as a temporary breakdown in lexical retrieval.

This approach has linked TOTs to other errors in spoken language, such as slips of the tongue and spoonerisms. Researchers from the memory perspective have viewed TOTs as a marker of retrieval processes gone awry. Metacognitive models focus on the role that monitoring and controlling processes play in cognition. This approach views TOTs as inferences based on non-target information that is accessible to “rememberers.”


Words for the DAY

1. phenomenon /fi-nɑ:mə-nɑ:n/– (N) something (such as an interesting fact or event) that can be observed and studied and that typically is unusual or difficult to understand or explain fully (i.e. The volcanic eruption was a scary yet interesting PHENOMENON).

2. recalled /rɪ-kɑ:led/– (V) remembered something from the past ( i.e. Yesterday, I RECALLED the time when I had my first haircut).

3. retrieving /ri-treev-ing/– (V) recovering or regaining something (i.e. I was RETRIEVING the data when electricity was cut off).

4. verge /vurj/ – (N) the limit or point beyond which something begins or occurs (i.e. She’s on the VERGE of depression).

5. figuratively /fig-yer-uh-tiv-li/ – (ADV) involving a figure of speech and not literal (i.e. I jumped out of my seat, FIGURATIVELY, when I saw the dogs entered the room).

6. inaccessibility /in-uh:k-ses-uh-buhl-i-ti/ – (N) a state when something is not accessible or cannot be reached (i.e. I’ve been trying to call you since yesterday but because of your phone’s INACCESSIBILITY, I wasn’t able to speak with you).

7. imminence /im-uh-nuh:ns/ – (N) the state or condition of having something likely to occur at any moment (i.e. The IMMINENCE of her death has scared her children).

8. inferences /in-fer-uh:ns, -fruh:ns-es/ –  (N) the process of arriving at some conclusion that possesses some degree of probability relative to the bases of conclusion (i.e. There are a lot of INFERENCES regarding scientific theories).

9. spoonerism /spoo-nuh-riz-uh:m/  – (N) the transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident, as in a blushing crow for a crushing blow (i.e. Ever since he started learning French, John has had experienced SPOONERISM in the English language).

10. awry /uh-rahy/ – (N) away from the expected or proper direction; amiss; wrong. (i.e. Our plans went AWRY).


1. psycholinguistic perspective – The view or understanding of the study of the influence of psychological factors on the development, use, and interpretation of language.

2. lexical retrieval – The process of recovering the meaning of a word in relation to the physical world or to abstract concepts, without reference to any sentence in which the word may occur. It is the opposite of contextual retrieval.

3. slips of the tongue – The accidental and usually little mistakes in speaking.

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