Slips of the tongue: read vs wrote

I’ve noticed that I sometimes mix read (past tense) and wrote. When intending to say I just read a good book, I might say I just wrote a good book instead. Or, instead of saying I just wrote a letter, I could just as well say I just read a letter. This has bugged me for some time. I refuse to believe that I’m going crazy. That just can’t be.

The curious thing is that I only seem to mix the past tense forms (read, wrote), and never the present tense forms (read, write). At least I can’t ever recall having made a mix involving present tense forms.

The fact that read and write are semantically linked concepts certainly plays a part, but apparently not sufficiently so in order to cause the mixing by itself. Otherwise I would be making mistakes involving the present tense forms, too. But I don’t. I’m pretty sure about that. Hence the answer must be something else, or at least something additional to that.

The best explanation I can come up with is that my brain links the two past tense forms via a chain of associations that looks something like this:

READ (past tense)
sounds like
  |
RED
means the same things as
  |
ROT (German)
sounds like
  |
WROTE

Indeed, that’s a perfectly logical chain of associations via phonetics, semantics (plus a little bit of phonetics), and phonetics again. And it works both ways, of course. The fact that it involves two languages (English and German) may seem a bit unintuitive at first, but really isn’t. I did study German for seven years, after all.

How’s that for a home-spun theory.

Advertisements