Some time back, I noticed that the word "amongst" induces semantic satiation for me very quickly. I don't know why, but that particular word stops making sense to me in very short order, and to be honest, just looking at it while I write this post is already making it not look like a word.

This makes me wonder - are my problems with "amongst" just idiosyncratic, or can we make generalizations about how semantic satiation works? Are there certain words (or classes of words) that induce semantic satiation more or less quickly than other words?


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I invented the phrase "semantic satiation" in my doctoral dissertation in 1962 (see Wikipedia article on semantic satiation for references and links). I found that emotional words that evoke some intensity are more resistant to satiation with repetition. This varies with individuals as to what words evoke intense emotions. Other words like "amongst" or prepositions like "from" and "to" are quick to lose meaning with repetition. Titles of songs and parts of lyrics can take a lot of repeating before they satiate. Some words that are new or less used actually increase in meaning with repetition before they eventually also lose meaning.

Dr. Leon Jakobovits James

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