Clang association, also known as clanging, is a speech pattern where people put words together because of how they sound instead of what they mean.

Clanging usually involves strings of rhyming words, but it may also incorporate puns (words with double meanings), similar-sounding words, or alliteration (words beginning with the same sound).

Sentences containing clang associations have interesting sounds, but they don’t make sense. People who speak in these repetitive, incoherent clang associations usually have a mental health condition.

Here’s a look at the causes and treatment of clang association, as well as examples of this speech pattern.

Clang association isn’t a speech disorder like stuttering. According to psychiatrists at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, clanging is a sign of a thought disorder — an inability to organize, process, or communicate thoughts.

Thought disorders are associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, although at least one recent study indicates that people with a certain type of dementia may also demonstrate this speech pattern.

A clanging sentence may begin with coherent thought and then get derailed by sound associations. For instance: “I was on my way to the store the chore the bore some more.”

If you notice clanging in someone’s speech, especially if it becomes impossible to understand what the person is trying to say, it’s important to get medical help.

Clanging may be an indication that the individual is either having or about to have an episode of psychosis. During these episodes, people may hurt themselves or others, so getting help quickly is important.

In a clang association, a word group has similar sounds but doesn’t create a logical idea or thought. Poets often use rhymes and words with double meanings, so clanging sometimes sounds like poetry or song lyrics — except these word combinations don’t convey any rational meaning.

Here are a couple of examples of clang association sentences:

  • “Here she comes with a cat catch a rat match.”
  • “There’s a mile-long dial trial a while, child.”

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder that causes people to experience distortions of reality. They may have hallucinations or delusions. It can also affect speech.

Researchers noted a connection between clanging and schizophrenia as far back as 1899. More recent research has confirmed this connection.

People who are experiencing an acute episode of schizophrenic psychosis may also show other speech disruptions like:

  • Poverty of speech: one- or two-word responses to questions
  • Pressure of speech: speech that is loud, fast, and hard to follow
  • Schizophasia: “word salad,” jumbled, random words
  • Loose associations: speech that suddenly shifts to an unrelated subject
  • Neologisms: speech that includes made-up words
  • Echolalia: speech that repeats whatever someone else is saying

Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes people to experience extreme mood changes.

People with this disorder usually have prolonged periods of depression as well as manic periods characterized by extreme happiness, sleeplessness, and risky behavior.

Studies have found that clang association is particularly common among people in the manic phase of bipolar disorder.

People experiencing mania often speak in a rushed way, where the speed of their speech matches the rapid thoughts surging through their mind. It’s important to know that clanging is not unheard of during depressive episodes, too.

Studies have found that thought disorders generally disrupt the ability to communicate, which can include both written and spoken communication.

Researchers think that the problems are connected to disturbances in working memory and semantic memory, or the ability to remember words and their meanings.

A study in 2000 showed that when some people with schizophrenia write down words that are read aloud to them, they swap phonemes. This means, for example, that they’ll write down the letter “v”, when the letter “f” was the correct spelling.

In these cases, the sounds produced by “v” and “f” are similar but not exactly the same, suggesting that the individual didn’t recall the right letter for the sound.

Because this thought disorder is associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, treating it requires treating the underlying mental health condition.

A doctor may prescribe antipsychotic medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, or family therapy may also help manage symptoms and behaviors.

Clang associations are groups of words chosen because of the catchy way they sound, not because of what they mean. Clanging word groups don’t make sense together.

People who speak using repetitive clang associations may have a mental health condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Both of these conditions are considered thought disorders because the condition disrupts the way the brain processes and communicates information.

Speaking in clang associations may precede an episode of psychosis, so it’s important to get help for someone whose speech is unintelligible. Antipsychotic medications and various forms of therapy may be part of a treatment approach.