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Why sometimes keep words on the "top of your tongue" and how to prevent it?

What's your name? I swear I have the top of my tongue.

Has it ever happened that you wanted to say a word or name a person, and you could not do that?

You had it at the top of your tongue and you ended up feeling frustrated and void.

Do not worry first.

We were all victims of the phenomenon Language Type (PDL) – Yes, science called it – and we will be again.

But why is that happening? Who is most affected by?

Universal phenomenon

Photos of many people.

The phenomenon The language type is happening to all of us. Yes, everyone. Getty Images

There is something special about the Punta De la Lengua phenomenon and that is does not discriminate.

"This is universal and. T this is happening to everyone speakers of different languages, not only Spanish, but also English, Hebrew, French etc. This is happening to people of different ages, from children to older adults, "says Lise Adams, a professor of linguistic and cognitive science at Pomona College in California, USA.

And this is not just a phenomenon that happens in the oral language. This is also happening to people who speak sign language, the phenomenon is called Finger button (TOF, for acronyms in English).

What's happening in our brain?

Thinking of a child.

It must produce the activation process in the brain to say the word we want. Getty Images

People need access to certain sounds that say words.

For different reasons, access to these sounds is weakened or interrupted. After that, we can not issue them when we 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 security, on the other hand, linguistic (phonological). incomplete phonological activation appears in the presence of complete semantic activation"Explains David Facal, a professor at the Department of Evolutionary Psychology at Santiago de Compostela University in Spain.

"Sometimes we know the first letter, the slogan, but we can not completely recapture the word," says BBC Mundo.

"Since this has been interrupted, and we remain there, in the midst of thoughts, it is also a window to know how we think and therefore since the nineteenth century there was interest in this phenomenon," adds Facal.

Activation model in the brain.


Note on the chart: "People." we present the names (and other words) on multiple levels: what this means (semantics), how it sounds (phonology), and what they look like (visual concepts). Closed lines represent where the recovery process is words it can break because ofrare or recent use, which reduces transmission through these links and prevents the return of the name or word, Names own they haveto specialty additional as the system can break down in the middle of each component: name or last name, another reason more PDL episodes may appear in their own names in relation to other words, "explains Adams.

Why is this happening?

People with pronounced emotions, angry, etc.

Some theories say that the type of language phenomenon is more common in stressful people or who pass through anxiety moments. Getty Images

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

"Tiredness, fatigue, aging, and deterioration of cognitive abilities at a certain point it seems that one of the sounds of the word is not activated, then the complete lexical form of the word can not be pronounced, "reveals Facal.

However, Adams states that there are no relevant data to support that idea.

"We investigated and found that the relationship between the episode of Punta de la Lengua and the moments of anxiety or stress change depending on age"He says."

Promising par

Experts say that after 60 years of PDL episodes may be more frequent. Getty Images

According to Adam, in studies conducted with colleagues, older people reported having episodes of PDL at times of anxiety. However, middle-aged adults were also exposed to stressful situations with fewer PDL episodes.

"Perhaps such situations of excitement in certain people may be useful for recovery" of words that can not be pronounced, specialist analyzes.

Although he warns thatthere is more to explore in terms of emotional factors who can play a role in the Language Type phenomenon ".

Own names

Own names in the post.

Getty Images

For experts consulted by BBC World, the PDL phenomenon is more common with own names

Mostly because there is no other possible word for defining that person we have in mind.

"Take for example Antonija Banderas." We know he is an actor, that he is Spanish, that he works in Hollywood, that he is brown, and that all this is happening on behalf of Banderas, "says Facal.

"But if we can not activate the Flags, we can not look for a synonym, Then we will stay with that feeling of anger at the top of the tongue. "

However, "if we want to say the word red and not come out, we could say it's red, it's the color of tomato, etc.," he explains.

Who is going to do more?

A girl with a board with a good day's word in several languages.

Bilingual people are more likely to suffer from the appearance of Punta de la Lengua. Getty Images

So far the research conducted so far suggests this People older than 60 with normal cognitive aging is more likely to suffer from PDL episodes.

Also those who speak two or more languages.

"In case. T bilingual peopleBecause they have access to two types of sound, they use sounds in both languages ​​less often than one speaker uses only one. And this reduction in use can weaken access to the sounds that are needed to word, "says Adams.

Both experts argue that, like the old, PDL episodes more often. And that happens with words we do not use often.

An alarm signal occurs when there are difficulties in producing very common or common words, as everyday items. "This could be an indication of something that is not normal," warns professor of linguistic and cognitive sciences.

Is PDL associated with dementia?

The man talks to the phone as he shows the language.

Experts say that PDL has nothing to do with dementia. Getty Images

Experts they reject it.

"According to what we have discovered, the occurrence of Punta de la Lengua is relatively independent of the capacity of the work memory," says Facal of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

"What is happening in dementia, like Alzheimer's, is that it is not just a change of lexical approach, but the knowledge of the word changes," he explains.

However, "that we have found relationship with processing speed, The response rate to stimuli would be positively associated with the frequency of occurrence in Punta de la Lengua, "he explains.

How to prevent it?

A woman with a tongue has a bunch of books on her head.

Maintaining an active intellectual life reduces the occurrence of a phenomenon in Punta de la Lengua. Getty Images

Read, Read, and Read.

This is the main recommendation of the expert.

You have to have a life intellectually active, talk a lot, read, write and maintain control of cardiovascular risk factors, such as exercise and healthy lifestyle, "says Facal.

Recommendation for people with normal cognitive aging is to focus on semantic activation.

For example, Do not interrupt the conversation because that word does not appear, Continue the conversation and give more examples and word features until it appears.

Or, if you know that certain names cause problems to remember them, try using them more often in conversation. You will surely have to stop having an episode of Punta de la Lengua, "recommends Adams.

"Do not worry about it, most people suffer from it, even healthy and normal, and it will happen throughout your life", concludes Adams.

This article is part of the digital version of the Hay festival Cartagena, a meeting of writers and thinkers in the city Colombian between January 31st and 3 from February from 2019.

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