Echolalia is when someone repeats the speech of
somebody else in an involuntary and meaningless way.
People with echolalia may repeat a word, phrase, or
entire sentences. For example, if somebody said to a
person with echolalia, "It sure is a very nice day today,"
he or she would respond, "It sure is a very nice day
In echolalia, the tone and accent of the speaker is repeated as well. Think of echolalia as
being like something a parrot does, in terms of speech repetition. Echolalia is sometimes
accompanied by echopraxia, in which the person involuntarily repeats the behavior of
Echolalia is sometimes (but unusually) seen in some patients with schizophrenia, a type
of mental disorder in which one loses contact with reality. Patients with schizophrenia
sometimes present with delayed echolalia. That is, they don't repeat speech until hours,
days, or weeks after they hear it. Echolalia is also seen in some patients who are
mentally retarded (very low intelligence and a poor ability to adapt to their environment).
Echolalia is also seen in some patients with autism.
Autism (autistic disorder) is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that causes
impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, and restricted,
repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.
When someone repeats their own speech, this is not echolalia. If
present in a child, this may reflect normal repetition in the
development of language skills. However, if the words/phrases are
repeated an abnormally high number of times or if present in adults,
it may represent perseveration, which is in inability to inhibit oneself
due to damage to the front part of the brain.
Echolalia is not always a bad sign. For example, it is normal for
babies to display echolalia, since they imitate sounds and words
heard by others. Thus, echolalia occurs normally in child
development. It is when echolalia occurs outside of this context that
it is considered abnormal.
Echolalia is also known as echophrasia, echo speech, and echo reaction. Echolalia comes from the
Greek word "echo" meaning "sound," and the Greek word "lalia" meaning "a form of speech." Put the
words together and you have "sound a form of speech."