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Palilalia

What It Is, How It Presents, and More

Author:Katie Arps, BSN, RN

Editors:Alyssa Haag,Ian Mannarino, MD,Kelsey LaFayette, DNP, ARNP, FNP-C

Illustrator:Jessica Reynolds, MS

Copyeditor:Sadia Zaman, MBBS, BSc


What is palilalia?

Palilalia is a rare speech disorder in which the speaker involuntarily repeats words, phrases, or sentences they have just spoken, often several times. The individual’s speech typically decreases in audibility and often accelerates in speed with each iteration. It has also been observed that palilalia occurs in spontaneous speech, and rarely in automatic speech, such as singing or reciting memorized pieces. Palilalia can occur in individuals with disorders such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, thalamic infarction, progressive supranuclear palsy, or idiopathic calcification of the basal ganglia.

Diagnosis of palilalia is made by meeting the requirements of the definition itself. It differs from echolalia, which is when an individual repeats a phrase or sentence that has just been spoken to them by another person. Another important differential diagnosis to consider is stuttering. Palilalia differs from stuttering in that palilalia is a speech repetition of a whole word or words occurring at the end of speaking; stuttering, in contrast, can include repetitions of sounds or words at the beginning or middle of sentences, and may also present as prolongation of vowel sounds or difficulty starting a sound altogether.

Palilalia may present as part of the progression of an organic underlying cause. There have been studies to help develop treatments, in the form of behavioral modification, for individuals experiencing palilalia as a result of functional disease. Some research suggests that individuals with autism spectrum disorder can decrease the occurrence of palilalia by being taught to use scripted language, rule-governed behavior, and self monitoring techniques.

Man repeating the same word over and over.

How is palilalia pronounced?

Palilalia, using phonetic symbols, is written as “pal-ə-lā’-lē-ə” and pronounced as “pal-uh-LAY-lee-uh”. Another acceptable pronunciation is “pal-uh-LAH-lee-uh”.

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Related links

Tourette syndrome
Autism spectrum disorder
Schizophrenia

Resources for research and reference

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Stuttering. In American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering/

Critchley M. (1927). On Palilalia. The Journal of Neurology and Psychopathology, 8(29): 23–32. DOI: 10.1136/jnnp.s1-8.29.23

Karmali, I., Greer, R. D., Nuzzolo-Gomez, R., Ross, D. E., & Rivera-Valdes, C. (2005). Reducing palilalia by presenting tact corrections to young children with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 21(1): 145–153. DOI: 10.1007/BF03393016

Merriam-Webster. (2022). Palilalia. In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/palilalia

Swanberg, M. M., Nasreddine, Z. S., Mendez, M. F., & Cummings, J. L. (2007). Speech and language. In C. G. Goetz (Ed.), Textbook of Clinical Neurology (3rd ed., pp. 79-98). Philadelphia: Elsevier. 

Van Borsel, J., & Tetnowski, J. A. (2007). Fluency disorders in genetic syndromes. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 32(4): 279–296. DOI: 10.1016/j.jfludis.2007.07.002