It is important here to have some framework with which to discuss parapraxes
Aitchison, as a psycholinguist blends both the disciplines of psychology and linguistics to give a more balanced view overall. She proposes first two broad definitions for type of parapraxis. (1998: 244) the first is when a wrong item or word is unintentionally chosen, these are generally referred to as slips of the tongue and an example would be, "Did you remember to buy some toothache?" Replacing the word toothpaste, which was intended, with toothache, which was unintended. She also refers to these more properly as slips of the brain. Secondly there is a classification of errors that are due to the faulty assemblages of the language within the statement. The word choice is usually correct but the grammatical assemblage of the statement is not. Here is an example she uses of this:, "Someone's been writening threat letters." In this case the correct root words are present but the grammar and syntax is incorrect and should have read, "Someone's been writing threatening letters." (1998: 244)
Furthermore, Aitchison then goes on to classify these two categories into several sub-categories. Regarding the first and most common category is that of word selection of which she propose these three subcategories: semantic errors, malapropisms and blends. (Aitchison 1998: 244)
So-called semantic or similar meaning errors are fairly common. In fact, they are so usual that they often pass unnoticed. We are talking about naming errors in which the speaker gets the general 'semantic field' right, but uses the wrong word, as in DO YOU HAVE ANY ARTICHOKES? I'M SORRY, I MEAN AUBERGINES. This kind of mistake often affects pairs of words. People say LEFT when they mean 'right', UP when the (Aitchison 1998: 244)
Cognitive psychology also recognises that the unconscious plays a role in these type of common errors of semantics and can often lead to embarrassing mistakes in speech. Sexual repression often gives way to replacement words that can suggests that extraneous sexual operating in conjunction with those to which the speaker was attempting to say. This can cause the activation of a counter word to spread through associated items in the speaker's speech pattern often having a cascading effect. (Bear 1992: 175)
The second type of word selection error, so-called malapropisms occur when a person confuses a word with another, similar sounding one. The name comes from Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's play the Rivals, who continually confused words which sounded alike, as in SHE'S as HEADSTRONG as an ALLEGORY on the BANKS of the NILE (She's as headstrong as an alligator on the banks of the Nile) and a NICE DERANGEMENT of EPITAPHS (a nice arrangement of epithets). (Aitchison 1998: 245)
Here the use is often rather comical, but it still may possess an underlying psychoanalytic foundation, especially when these errors are made by other than actors or comedians. As Freud has stated many the reason for these errors are often beyond our immediate awareness. Yet there is often a sudden and spontaneous outburst that can bring that awareness into consciousness. Freud calls this preconscious, 'The preconscious is much closer to the conscious than to the unconscious because it is largely within our control.' (Freud 2003:17) This allows the speaker a level of understanding not normally available otherwise.
The third type of selection error, so-called blends, are an extension and variation of semantic errors. They are fairly rare, and occur when two words are 'blended' together to form one new one. For example, NOT in the SLEAST contains a mixture of 'slightest and least'. And PLEASE EXPLAND THAT is a mixture of 'explain and expand'. (Aitchison, 1998, p. 246)
Here it seems that these types of errors do not fit really Freud's psychoanalytic categories as mentioned earlier I this paper. These seem to be simple innocent mistakes of blending one word or idea into the next. This is merely the result of the speaker thinking faster than he or she can speak. This event is similar to a typist who has generated genuine typos in which words are transposed or letters left out, because of the typist's thoughts moving faster than his or her hands can reproduce. These errors are in large part due to the mechanical working of the brain rather than any preconscious implications.
Going on to the second larger classification, that of assemblage errors, Aitchison divides these again into three subcategories: 'transpositions, anticipations and repetitions, which may affect words, syllables or sounds.' (1998: 247)
Transpositions are not, on the whole, very common. Whole words can switch places, as in DON'T BUY a CAR WITH ITS TAIL in the ENGINE (Don't buy a car with its engine in the tail) but perhaps the best known are the sound transpositions known as spoonerisms. These are named after a real-life person, the Reverend William a. Spooner, who was Dean and Warden of New College, Oxford, around the turn of the century. Reputedly, he often transposed the initial sounds of words, resulting in preposterous sentences, such as...YOU HAVE HISSED ALL MY MYSTERY LECTURES (You have missed all my history lecture) (Aitchison1998: 247)
Again this type of error is also largely linguistic in nature and tells us more about how the brain works and how language truly operates than it does about any psychological meaning of personality.
The next category of assemblage errors, anticipations, are certainly one of the most common of these parapraxes. They are involved in both the anticipation of sounds as well as words.
Here, a speaker anticipates what he is going to say by bringing in an item too early. Note that it is not always possible to distinguish between anticipations and potential transpositions if the speaker stops himself half-way through, after realising his error. This may partially account for the high recorded proportion of anticipations compared with transpositions. For example, the following could be a prematurely cut off transposition:
WANT YOU to TELL MILLICENT... I MEAN, I WANT YOU to TELL MARY WHAT MILLICENT SAID. (Aitchison 1998: 248)
Here there may be a grey area regarding certain anticipation errors. While obviously innocent errors may still belie and reveal an unconscious thought, perhaps the speakers real intentions are becoming clear in transposition the names, wanting to tell Millicent, in this example that Aitchison shows us, instead of Mary. This conceivably is indicative of some underlying animosity or another repressed emotional state that was lying under the surface, then becoming preconscious and surfacing in the anticipation error. For instance this occurrence in Poland's an Analyst's Slip of the Tongue shows the result of such preconscious urges even in a trained psychotherapist:
Here again," I said, "when you have an urge to do it your own way, even start to feel having your own idea, a mind of your own, you feel you are betraying the other person and killing yourself, I mean, the other person." It was my slip that substituted herself for the other as the object of murderous impulses. We had long ago known that undoing of herself was the result of her pattern, but we had not before directly focused on the self-punishing quality as a derivative wish in its own right. When I made my slip, I had not been thinking consciously of aggression turned against herself. (Poland 1992:85)
In this instance the therapist's slip has allowed the patient an insight into her own unconscious aggression towards herself that she had been repressing.
Repetitions (or perseverations) are rather rarer than anticipations, though commoner than transpositions. We find repeated words, as in:
A: ISN'T it COLD? MORE LIKE a SUNDAY in FEBRUARY.
B: IT'S NOT TOO BAD - MORE LIKE a FEBRUARY in MARCH I'D SAY (it's not too bad - more like a Sunday in March).
An example of a repeated sound occurred when someone referred to: THE BOOK by CHOMSKY and CHALLE (Chomsky and Halle) - perhaps an indication of the mesmerizing effect of Chomsky on a number of linguists! (Aitchison 1998: 248-249)
The reason that repetitions are relatively unusual is that because most people have a built in neurological mechanism that effectively 'wipes the slate clean' after saying the selected word or phrase:
the phonetic form no longer remains to clutter up the mind. This is perhaps the greatest single difference between ordinary people and dysphasics, who often, to their frustration and despair, repeatedly repeat sounds and words from the sentence before. (Aitchison 1998:249)
In his book the Psychology of Language Trevor Harley further elucidates speech errors in to the following table.