You know that feeling you get when you say a word over and over again and it starts to sound like it’s not a word anymore? Or you stare at it and you suddenly think “What? That doesn’t look like a word..”?
This is jamais vu.
I always thought I was a bit crazy when I had this feeling in school writing out lists of spelling words, when the words is repeated and crammed so much that you start feeling weirded out.
Basically, from what I can glean (via this study by Dr. Chris Moulin), it’s essentially induced by a specific type of brain fatigue. The brain gets weary of repetition and stops paying attention, causing the object of focus (like a word) to lose its meaning.
As it pertains to linguistics, a word has form, function, and meaning. But taken alone and out of context, the word loses both its function and meaning, leaving only the form to be repeated. Repetition will eventually cause the word’s form (usually unobserved) to supercede its meaning and function (usually expected), and this is what makes it sound so weird (so says Wikipedia..mostly :P)
That’s why spelling lists are prone for jamais vu. Since the words are taken out of context, they lose meaning and function. And obviously since the focus of such a list is to learn how to spell the words, the only thing left to focus on is their form.
It’s a pretty cool phenomenon. At least I’m not alone.