Echolalia (also known as echologia or echophrasia) is defined as the unsolicited repetition of vocalizations made by another person (by the same person is called palilalia). In its profound form it is automatic and effortless. It is one of the echophenomena, closely related to echopraxia, the automatic repetition of movements made by another person; both are “subsets of imitative behavior” whereby sounds or actions are imitated “without explicit awareness”. Echolalia may be an immediate reaction to a stimulus or may be delayed
Echolalia can be categorized as immediate (occurring immediately after the stimulus) vs. delayed (some time after the occurrence of a stimulus). Immediate echolalia results from quick recall of information from the short-term memory and “superficial linguistic processing”. A typical pediatric presentation of immediate echolalia might be as follows: a child is asked “Do you want dinner?”; the child echoes back “Do you want dinner?”, followed by a pause, and then a response, “Yes. What’s for dinner?” In delayed echolalia the patient repeats words, phrases, or multiple sentences after a delay that can be anywhere from hours to years later. Immediate Echolalia can be indicative that a developmental disorder exists, but this is not necessarily the case. Sometimes Echolalia can be observed when an individual echos back a statement to indicate they are contemplating a response and fully heard the original statement.