Covert Speech: Understanding the Mechanisms and Applications

Covert speech is a form of communication where the speaker’s production of language is highly suppressed, making it difficult to detect. This phenomenon has been observed in a wide range of contexts, such as neuropsychological disorders, motor speech deficits, and in general communication. In this article, we will explore the mechanisms behind covert speech, potential applications, and provide an overview of current research in the field.

The Mechanisms of Covert Speech

Covert speech production is thought to involve a combination of neurocognitive and motor processes. In terms of neurocognitive processes, covert speech is believed to be driven by a “central executive” system that is responsible for higher-level cognitive functions such as goal setting, task selection, and problem solving (McGlynn, 2019). This system is thought to interact with other cognitive processes, like working memory, to control the articulatory processes necessary for covert speech production. The motor processes involved in covert speech production are thought to involve the use of internal articulatory resources, such as the tongue and lips, to generate a speech signal without the need for audible vocalizations (Kirk, 2019).

Applications of Covert Speech

Covert speech has a wide range of potential applications in both clinical and non-clinical contexts. In the clinical domain, covert speech can be used to assess language-processing deficits in individuals with neuropsychological disorders such as aphasia and dysarthria (McGlynn, 2019). It may also provide insight into the underlying neural processes involved in speech production, as well as how these processes are affected by brain injury or damage (Kirk, 2019). In non-clinical applications, covert speech may be used to facilitate communication in noisy environments where vocalization would be difficult or impossible (McGlynn, 2019).

Current Research on Covert Speech

Recent research on covert speech has focused on examining the underlying mechanisms of production and exploring potential applications. For example, researchers have studied the effects of stimulation of the primary motor cortex on covert speech production (Kirk, 2019). Additionally, studies have explored the use of covert speech for communication in noisy environments (McGlynn, 2019). Other research has sought to develop protocols for the assessment of covert speech in clinical populations (Kirk, 2019).


In conclusion, covert speech is a fascinating phenomenon with a wide range of potential applications in both clinical and non-clinical contexts. Although much research has been conducted on covert speech, much remains to be explored in terms of the underlying mechanisms and applications.


Kirk, S. (2019). The Neurocognitive and Motor Mechanisms of Covert Speech. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1-7.

McGlynn, S. (2019). Covert Speech: An Overview of the Literature. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 50(3), 571-584.

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