Victoria Fromkin

Victoria Fromkin (16 May 1923 – 19 January 2000) is a famous American linguist who taught at UCLA. Dr. Fromkin studied slips of the tongue, mishearing, and other speech errors and applied this to study how language is organized in the mind.


Dr. Fromkin was born in Passaic, New Jersey as Victoria Alexandra Landish on May 16th, 1923. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1944. She later met Jack Fromkin and they were married in 1948. They went on to have a son, Mark, who died in a car accident at the age of 16. Dr. Fromkin decided to head back to school to study linguistics while in her late 30’s. She enrolled at UCLA as a master’s student. She received her master’s in 1963 and then went on to earn her Ph.D in 1965. That same year, Dr. Fromkin joined the faculty of the linguistics department at UCLA. Dr. Fromkin earned many achievements in her lifetime. Her line of research mainly dealt with speech errors and slips of the tongue. She collected more than 12,000 examples of slips of the tongue. She became the first woman in the University of California system to be Vice Chancellor of Graduate Programs. She held this position from 1980 to 1989. She also earned the title of President of the Linguistic Society of America. Dr. Fromkin was also chairwoman of the board of governors of the Academy of Aphasia. Fromkin was awarded the UCLA Harvey L. Eby Award.

Dr. Victoria Fromkin died at the age of 76 on January 19, 2000 from colon cancer.


Dr. Fromkin contributed to the area of linguistics known as speech errors. Dr. Fromkin created a speech error database that is actually called "Fromkin’s Speech Error Database." The data was collected for several years at UCLA and is still being collected to this day.

Dr. Fromkin recorded nine different types of speech errors. The following are examples of each: Lexical: -Target Utterance: A fifty-pound bag of dog food

               -Error Utterance: A fifty-pound dog of bag food.
-Target Utterance: A cameraman who wants to make a report about the horserace. -Error Utterance: A cameraman who WANT to er make a reportage about the horserace who WANTS to make a reportage about the horse race.
-Target Utterance: We began to collect a lot of data to determine what they may mean. -Error Utterance: We began to collect a lot of data to determine what they may MEANT.
   -Target Utterance: A bread bun
   -Error Utterance: A BRUN
   -Target Utterance: 280 days as compared to
   -Error Utterance: 280 days as composed to
   -Target Utterance: DISTINGUISHED TEACHING award
   -Error Utterance: DISTEACHING TINGWER award
   -Target Utterance: and then they start painting/need t'start painting
   -Error Utterance: …and then they START NEED T'…need t'start painting.
Syntactic: -Target Utterance: a university that celebrated its 50th anniversary a couple of years ago -Error Utterance: a university that IS celebratING its 50th anniversary a couple of years ago Tip-of-the-Tongue:
   -Target Utterance: cherokee
   -Error Utterance: it starts with a "j"
Dr. Fromkin theorized that slips of the tongue can occur at many levels including syntactic, phrasal, lexical or semantic, morphological, phonological. She also believed that slips of the tongue could occur as many different process procedures. The different forms were: -Addition: Someone wants to say, "bomb scare" but instead says, "bomb square."
       -Deletion: Someone wants to say, "I hope you use the same brush every day"
        but instead says, "I hope you use the rush every day."
-Exchange: Wanting to say, "can you sign on the line" but instead says, "cas you
  nign on the line?"
-Substitution: Someone wants to say, "a vote for the guarneri quartet came in" but instead says, "a vote for the guarneri quartAte cAme in." The research of Dr. Fromkin helps support the argument that language processing is not modular. The argument for modularity claims that language is localized, domain-specific, mandatory, fast, and encapsulated. Her research on slips of the tongue have demonstrated that when people make slips of the tongue it usually happens on the same level, indicating that each level has a distinct place in the persons brain. Phonemes switch with phonemes, stems with stems, and morphemes switch with other morphemes.


Critics of Fromkin have discussed the possibility of experimenter bias during the collection of the thousands of speech errors. The speech errors were collected by observation which could indeed lead to experimenter bias or human error.

Many different scholars have contributed research to the field of modularity. Some support the view that language processing is modular, while others support the view that language processing is not modular. The research of Dr. Fromkin helped support the hypothesis that language is modular. However, many scholars have argued that even though speech errors do occur people are still able to understand one another. This indicates that language is not modular.


  • Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. (2007). An Introduction to Language (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 1-4130-1773-8.
  • Fromkin, V. (Ed.) (2000). Linguistics: An Introduction to Linguistic Theory. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-19711-7.
  • Fromkin, V. (Ed.) (1980). Errors in linguistic performance: Slips of the tongue, ear, pen, and hand. San Francisco: Academic Press. ISBN 0122689801.


Bloom, J. (2007, October). Lecture. Presented at New School University, New York, New York.

Fromkin, V. (1997). Some Thoughts about the Brain/Mind/Language Interface.

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. (2007). Fromkins Speech Error Database. Retrieved November 11, 2007, from the World Wide Web:

Oliver, M. (2000). Obituaries of Prof. Victoria Fromkin. Retrieved November 11, 2007, from

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