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Language: Linguistics · Semiotics · Speech

Circumstantial speech (also referred to as circumstantiality) is a communication disorder in which the focus of a conversation drifts, but often comes back to the point.[1] In circumstantiality, unnecessary details and irrelevant remarks cause a delay in getting to the point.[2][dead link]

Circumstantial speech is less severe than tangential speech in which the speaker wanders and drifts and usually never returns to the original topic, and is far less severe than logorrhea.[3]


A person afflicted with circumstantiality has slowed thinking and invariably talks at length about irrelevant and trivial details (i.e. circumstances).[4] Eliciting information from such a person can be difficult since circumstantiality makes it hard for the individual to stay on topic. In most instances however, the relevant details are eventually achieved.
The disorder is often associated with schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.[2]


An example of circumstantial speech is that when asked about the age of a person's mother at death, the speaker responds by talking at length about accidents and how too many people die in accidents, then eventually says what the mother's age was at death.[1]

Similarly, a patient afflicted with this condition, for example, when asked about a certain recipe, could give minute details about going to the grocery store, the shopping experience, people there, and so on.


Treatment often involves the use of behavioral modification and anticonvulsants, antidepressants and anxiolytics.[5]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Problem-Based Psychiatry by Ben Green 2009 ISBN 1-84619-042-8 page 15
  2. 2.0 2.1 Merck Source Library. Dorland's Medical Dictionary found on Merck Source's website. URL accessed on June 1, 2010.
  3. Crash Course: Psychiatry by Julius Bourke, Matthew Castle, Alasdair D. Cameron 2008 ISBN 0-7234-3476-X page 255
  4. A definition of circumstantiality. URL accessed on November 6, 2009.
  5. (April 5, 2004) Childhood Epilepsy: Language, Learning And Behavioural Complications, Cambridge University Press.
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