This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Nuts and Bolts: semantic satiation.

Well, semantic satiation sounds complicated, doesn't it, but it's really the simplest thing in the world...

...world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world world...

So, now, tell me: what is a world, exactly? 

Not sure after all that repetition? Well, that's semantic satiation for you.

It's a phenomenon that's been recognised for a long time (Edgar Allen Poe used the idea in his story Berenice) though the actual term semantic satiation is much more recent. The idea is that any word, if repeated very many times, baffles the brain to such an extent that the word temporarily loses its meaning.

Yes, it works with any word. Go on, try it - with the word bubble, for instance. Or cardigan. Or your name.

See? 

What seems to be happening is that the particular path in your brain that leads from the sound of the word to its meaning opens as usual, but because the path that's being opened isn't going anywhere useful (bubble bubble bubble bubble...) then after a time the brain sensibly shuts this pathway down as annoying and useless; and so for a while the brain won't be sure what the word usually means.

See? 

Your brain is really rather clever, isn't it?

Word To Use Just Once Today: semantic. This word comes from the Greek sēmantikos, having significance, from sēma, a sign.


No comments:

Post a Comment