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Psycholinguistics is the study of relationships between linguistic behavior and psychological processes, including the process of language acquisition. In simple terms it’s the study of relationships in language that happens in the brain. Ever take a minute to wonder why we can automatically try to pronounce a word we’ve never seen before just by using language acquisition? Or just being able to communicate with others without having a complete football play on how the whole conversation is going to go? Well that’s why we have Psycholinguistics.

Language Acquisition

There are two schools of thought with two different theories. One of these two schools of thought theories are that language must be learned by the child. The other says that language cannot be learned. Well which is true? A guy names Noam Chomsky had the idea that humans possess an innate ability for language such as recursion, which are hard-wired in the brain. This gives people the ability to easily grasp on to the ideas such as grammar as well as other complex syntax.

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Language Comprehension

Well how do people understand what they read? Is it natural or by chance? Well there are a number of experimented theories. A big one is the garden path theory which consists of the reader to create the simplest path to understanding what was read. For example, He ate… The person will have already have the question ate what? as the simplest path of understanding. This is until the sentence gets a little more complicated. He ate while riding. That could be the whole sentence just as he ate can be. The the initial understanding of the sentence has changed. Sounds like lazy work? A possible explanation could be that back before homo-sapiens had reading and writing there was just oral speech. Now that we’ve become more complex and evolved that brain may take some short cuts because back then, all it was meant for was survival and not trying to comprehend Shakespeare’s written plays that your teacher forced you to read.

Language Production

This is how people produce language whether its a foreign language, different dialects, or strong accents in either written or spoken form. Ways that psycholinguists observed meanings guided by their rule governed languages are by speech errors. This could be anything from reformulation and long pauses to blending and substitutions. These observations have proved that a person does not plan their entire sentence only the main core aspects and main content of what they were going to talk about.

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The cognitive involvement in language is something that I never payed close attention to until I started taking Linguistics and talking about it more in this Psychology course and it makes it all the more interesting. Language is something we use day to day and not really pay too much attention to besides realizing that we just can. It can be very useful when trying to understand not only English but other languages as well; this could also be for dialects we aren’t familiar with. This inherently explains why we do what we do and creates an insight on the things we don’t pay attention to about our own being. Experiments and theories like these brings humans a step closer to figuring out our most complicated systems.



One thought on “Psycholinguistics

  1. ewhitese

    The field of psycholinguistics sounds very interesting. I have a friend at UMW that has created her own major in psycholinguistics. She is going to become an elementary education teacher but said she might continue on to become a speech pathologist. I took an introduction to linguistics class here last year and thought it was really interesting. I distinctly remember learning about Chomsky’s research with gorillas.

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