My sister and I are very close and talk to each other on a daily basis. When we are at family gatherings, or especially on the phone, we speak so quickly that sometimes half of the word gets lost. To others listening to our conversations, it would seem as though we are speaking another language, but we both understand each other perfectly. In fact, my mother often comments about how we need to speak slowly and clearly. She doesn’t understand that we are engaging in the phonemic restoration effect at a high speed and effectively communicating with each other thoroughly.
Words are made up of different components. The two smallest units that make up a word are called phonemes and morphemes. A phoneme is a short piece of speech, usually produced as a sound, and if it were to be changed, the entire meaning of the work would change (Goldstein, 2011). An example of this would be the word cat. The phonemes that make up the word cat are /c/, /a/, and /t/. We can change the phonemes to make an entirely different word. For example, we could change /c/ into a /b/ and make the word bat or change the /a/ into a /u/ and make the word cut. Morphemes are slightly larger than phonemes, and are the “smallest units of language that have definable meaning or a grammatical function” (Goldstein, 2011, p.297). An example of a two morphemes that make up one word would be football. It is one word and can be broken down into two morphemes that mean something; foot and ball. We cannot break down foot any further (fo means nothing to us in the English language, and neither does ot!) so that particular word has only two morphemes.
The phonemic restoration effect is a phenomenon where individuals “fill in” a missing phoneme of a word by using the context of the rest of the sentence to understand what the person is trying to say. My sister and I constantly do this. We speak so fast to each other that there are many times where we leave out ends of words, or abbreviate to a ridiculous degree, that the other has to fill in the missing phonemes and use the rest of the sentence to grasp the meaning of what the other is saying. An example of this would be if I were to say the sentence (and trust me I have said this before) “I m gon go get the kid at schoo cause th bus will be too late n I have to go soon.” When my sister engages in the phonemic restoration effect, she automatically fills in the missing phonemes of /a/, /n/, /a/, /s/, /l/, /e/, /a/ and /d/ when the sentence is completed to create a meaningful sentence of “I am gonna go get the kids at school ’cause the bus will be too late and I have to go soon. She used “kid” and “bus will be too late” and “I have to go soon” to and fill in the missing phonemes and infer what I meant to make sense of the sentence. This phenomenon also occurs when we are on the phone talking and either her children or mine are playing in the background and block out some of the phonemes. We use the phoneme restoration effect constantly to communicate with each other and make sense of where the phonemes either get blocked out or left off.
Goldstein, E. (2011). Language. In Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.