Lecture 1
Lecture Plan
1. Course Introduction
Key topics Psycholinguistics includes
2. The notion of PL, its object, subject matter
3. The main objectives of PL
4. Interdisciplinary nature of PL
5. Historical perspectives on PL:
Historical perspectives on PL
PL of the 1st generation (Ch. Osgood)
PL of the 2nd generation ( N. Chomsky)
Categories: psychologypsychology lingvisticslingvistics

Psycholinguistics as a branch of science. (Lecture 1)

1. Lecture 1

as a branch of

2. Lecture Plan

1. Course
2. The notion of PL, its object, subject matter
3. The main objectives of PL
4. Interdisciplinary nature of PL
5. Historical perspectives on PL:
5.1 PL of the 1st generation (Ch. Osgood)
5.2 PL of the 2nd generation ( N. Chomsky)

3. 1. Course Introduction

• Psycholinguistics (PL) is the study of the
relationship between language and the brain.
• Psycholinguists view the study of human
language as inseparable part from the study of
the working of the brain.
• Psycholinguists examine the most crucial
issues about the interaction between the brain
and language in relation to how language is
acquired, processed and stored.

4. Key topics Psycholinguistics includes

• Sentence processing: how we understand
• Morphological processing: how we recognize
morphologically complex words and how we
represent relations between related words.
• Spoken word recognition: how we parse an
acoustic stream into discrete units and then
how we recognize those discrete units as
words of our language.


• Language acquisition: how we learn language;
what the stages of acquisition exist; what
challenges the child faces.
• Speech production: how we find the words to
express our thoughts; how we assemble words
into sentences; why we make the errors that we
do and not others.
• Bilingualism: how I manage/organize the
information that I know for my two languages.
Do these systems interact or they strictly

6. 2. The notion of PL, its object, subject matter

The notion ‘Psycholinguistics’ consists of
two parts. It comes from the Greek word
‘psyche’ which means ‘soul’ and the Latin
word ‘langua’ which means ‘language’.


• PL is the field that studies the unconscious
processes that underlie our language abilities
(Matthew Crocker)
• PL explores the relationship between the
human mind and language. It treats the
language user as an individual rather than a
representative of a society (John Field)
• PL is mentioned as the study of the
relationship between language and behavioral
characteristics of those who use it (the
Random House Dictionary)


• PL or psychology of language is the
study of the psychological and
neurobiological factors that enable
humans to acquire, use, comprehend and
produce language (from Wikipedia)
PL as any other science has got two general
operational factors which are very
essential for the science: object and


The object of PL is language.
But in PL it is language in its wide sense, language
with its specific characteristics and behaviour.
It is: language as a system of symbols used for
meaningful communication;
• language as a definite system of mental and
psychological (behavioral) operations by means
of which we operate directly on the world
around us and fix the results in the linguistic
• language as a means of communication.


• The subject of any science is known to be the
definite body of knowledge got in the result of
this or that object learning from the different
point of view.
• subject in PL deals with some special
peculiarities of construction, mechanisms,
operations which have been revealed through
object learning (language). It studies mental
(psychic) processes concerning language
application, existence, operation, development


The hypothesis made by
Wilhelm von Humboldt:
Language isn’t only a system of symbols but
an activity itself, for if we look at language
genetically we understand it as a work of the
mind directed to a specific purpose: ‘The
bringing-forth of language is an inner need of
human beings’

12. 3. The main objectives of PL

1) the problem of speech activity, its structure,
its evolution, its operation (a nucleus
question in soviet PL);
2) the nature of linguistic competence (What’s
the real nature of linguistic competence that
gives us a possibility to produce the
utterance, perceive it and comprehend it etc?)


3) two main psychical processes, concerning
language application: the problem of utterance
production and the problem of utterance
• Utterance is an absolutely self-contained,
comprehensive and semantic unit. Mostly, an
utterance coincides with a sentence.
• An utterance has become the key linguistic
unit for PL as by means of it we can resume
about all the aspects of language.


4) the problem of psycholinguistic mechanisms
language comprehension and production;
mechanisms for working out the rules of
language etc.)
5) the problem of speech communication
analysis. Psycholinguists understand speech
communication as the process of two or more
psychological validity


ethnocultural peculiarities of speech
communication (As language itself is known to
be a cultural constitution, the language
application can’t but be influenced by certain
ethnocultural phenomena);
7) the problem of human speech ontogenesis as
children’s language development rather
influences adult’s speaking processes;
8) the problem of speech pathology that is to say
investigating of speech and communication

16. 4. Interdisciplinary nature of PL

• PL is interdisciplinary in nature with
contribution from psychology, linguistics,
philosophy, anthropology, communication
science, speech and language pathology etc.
• Modern research makes use of biology,
information theory to study how the brain
processes language.


• But mostly, we refer to PL as the study of the
• A psycholinguist studies language, speech
traditionally developed in the field of
• PL is closely tied to linguistics-related areas:


• In Phonetics and Phonology psycholinguistic
research focuses on how the brain processes and
understands speech sounds.
• In Morphology psycholinguistic research focuses on
how we recognize morphologically complex words
and how we represent relations between related
• In Syntax PL tries to explain how an individual
understands a sentence as a whole.
• Relating to Linguistics, PL covers the cognitive
processes that make it possible to generate a
grammatical and meaningful sentence out of
vocabulary and grammatical structures, as well as the
processes that make it possible to understand words,
utterances, text etc.

19. 5. Historical perspectives on PL:

5.1 PL of the 1st generation (Ch. Osgood)
5.2 PL of the 2nd generation ( N. Chomsky)

20. Historical perspectives on PL

• Americans tend to date the history of
psycholinguistics from the 1950s.
• Philosophical beginnings in PL trace intellectual
origins to Ancient Greece: Plato had a theory of
concepts. Plato tried to say something about where
the “innate” concepts came from our mysterious
contact with the world of ideal forms. Plato was
clearly concerned with the mental.
• There were flourishing traditions in Mesopotamia,
China, the Arabic-speaking world and India (in the
study of grammar)


• Psychological beginnings in PL are
associated with the name of Wundt’s.
• There was a thriving tradition of
experimental work on the psychology of
language in Wundt’s own lab.
• Wundt himself published a book on “die
Sprache” in 1900.
• Regular attendees at Wundt’s lectures
included Bloomfield, Mead, Saussure and


• Wundt’s influence waned dramatically with
the advent of behaviorism.
• Behaviorism affected the study of language
both within psychology and within linguistics,
In psychology they analyzed thought as
subvocal speech, but they had comparatively
little to say about speech itself, or any other
aspect of language.


• The emerging of cognitive psychology in the 1950s:
The Sapir –Whorf hypothesis conveys the idea that
differences in the way languages encode cultural and
cognitive categories affect the way people think, so
that speakers of different languages will tend to think
and behave differently depending on the language
they use.
• The hypothesis states that there are certain thoughts
of an individual in one language that cannot be
understood by those who live in another language.
• It also states that the way people think is strongly
affected by their native languages.

24. PL of the 1st generation (Ch. Osgood)

• The seminar on psycholinguistics held at
Indiana University in 1953 in the city of
Bloomington – the beginning of PL
• The result was published in 1956 under the
title “Psycholinguistics: A Survey of Theory
and Research Problems” edited by Osgood and
• Linguists began to view language as a
spontaneous product of nature and a natural
product of consciousness.


• Osgood and Sebeok defined psycholinguistics in
1954 as the study of ‘the processes of encoding
and decoding as they relate states of messages to
states of communicators’.
• The work by Charles Osgood and Thomas Sebeok
discussed briefly the three main approaches on
which the authors focused their study of language:
linguistics, learning theory, and information


• Changes in the structural features of language
are compared to the changing behavioral
individual, these being psycholinguistic
changes which occur in first language learning
or in second language learning and

27. PL of the 2nd generation ( N. Chomsky)

• Naom Chomsky – one of the first proponents of a
psychological view of language.
• Human language is innate and modular, it is
uniquely different from other cognitive processes.
• The cognitive functional approach to language
which “emphasizes that the function of human
language is to communicate meaning to other
• The special properties of language require special
mechanisms to handle it (Chomsky, 1959).


• The special feature of language on which
Chomsky focused was its productivity.
• Possessed with a grammar, or syntax, humans
can produce and understand novel sentences
that carry novel messages.
• N. Chomsky (1986) in his work Knowledge of
Language: Its Nature, Origin and Use explains
that a knowledge of language is given by a
particular generative grammar, a theory
concerned with the state of the mind/brain of
the person who knows a particular language.


• Generative grammar is concerned with the
intelligence of the reader, the principles and
procedures brought to bear full knowledge of a
• Chomsky thinks about knowledge of language
as something that is innate within the mind or
brain of a person who is naturally born with
• Generative grammar in this sense is a
predetermined set of rules or systems that
enables a person to learn, use, know of


• Chomsky proposed competence and
performance which became later terms used
in studying language.
• We should distinguish clearly between
knowledge and ability to use that
• Chomsky tended to see language as an
autonomous system, insulated from other
cognitive systems.


• We store a great deal of information about the
properties of words in our mental lexicon, and
we retrieve this information when we
understand or produce language.
• The mental lexicon is defined as a mental
dictionary that contains information regarding
a word's meaning, pronunciation, syntactic
characteristics, and so on.
• The mental lexicon is a construct used in
linguistics and psycholinguistics to refer to
individual speakers’ lexical, or word


• The mental lexicon is not just a general
collection of words; it deals with how those
words are activated, stored, processed, and
retrieved by each speaker.
• An individual’s mental lexicon changes and
grows as new words are learned and is
always developing


• In the USSR psycholinguistics emerged in the
1960’s on the basis of L.Vygotskii’s Soviet
School of Psychology and linguistic traditions
going back to L. Shcherba.
• Soviet PL (the theory of speech activity)
regards speech as a form of purposeful human
behaviour, subject to the general laws of the
organization of activity


Research has proceeded in a number of basic
• models of the grammatical generation of
utterances (A.A. Leontev, T.V. Ryabova,
I.A. Zimnyaya etc)
• the
comprehension of the semantic aspects of
speech (A.A. Brudnyi, A.P. Klimenko,
R.M. Frumkina )
• the psychology of communication
• the laws by which integral and connected texts
are constructed.
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