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The Terms and Scope of Psycholingusitcs Studies

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Go-Blog - Psycholinguistics is the study of the language processing mechanisms. Psycholinguistics deals with the mental processes a person uses in producing and understanding language. It is concerned with the relationship between language and the human mind, for example; how word, sentence, and discourse meaning are represented and computed in the mind.

As the name suggests, it is a subject which links psychology and linguistics. Psycholinguistics is interdisciplinary in nature and is studied by people in a variety of fields, such as psychology, cognitive science, and linguistics. It is an area of study which draws insights from linguistics and psychology and focuses upon the comprehension and production of language. 

Psycholinguists study many different topics, but these topics can generally be divided into answering the following questions:
  1. how do children acquire language (language acquisition)?
  2. how do people process and comprehend language (language comprehension)?
  3. how do people produce language (language production)?
  4. how do people acquire a new language (second language acquisition)?
To this point, by understanding those general questions in terms of psycholinguistics studies, we can conclude that ;

  • The common aim of psycholinguists is to find out the structures and processes which underline a human's ability to speak and understand language.
  • Psycholinguists are not necessarily interested in language interaction between people. They are trying above all to probe into what is happening within the individual.
  • At its heart, psycholinguistic work consists of two questions.

    1. What knowledge of language is needed for us to use language?

    2. What processes are involved in the use of language?
The "Knowledge Questions"
Four broad areas of language knowledge:
  • Semantics deals with the meanings of sentences and words.
  • Syntax involves the grammatical arrangement of words within the sentence.
  • Phonology concerns the system of sounds in a language.
  • Pragmatics entails the social rules involved in language use.
It is not ordinarily productive to ask people explicitly what they know about these aspects of language. We infer linguistic knowledge from observable behavior.

The "Process Questions"
What cognitive processes are involved in the ordinary use of language?
  • Ordinary use of languag: e.g. understanding a lecture, reading a book, writing a letter, and holding a conversation, etc.
  • Cognitive process: processes like perception, memory and thinking.
  • Although we do few things as often or as easily as speaking and listening, we will find that considerable cognitive processing is going on during those activities.
Two possible directions of study in psycholinguistic
  • Language as a way of explaining psycholinguistic theories and processes: language influences memory, perception, attention and learning.
  • The effects of psychological constraints on the use of language: how memory limitations affect language production and comprehension.