What is Psycholinguistics?

What Is Psycholinguistics? | Definition, Types and Examples


What Is Psycholinguistics?

In this article, we will analyse what is Psycholinguistics in Linguistics? And authors view and observation about it. The term ‘Psycholinguistics’ is a combination of psychology and linguistics, both of which are the branches of science. Psychology covers the systematic study of human experience and behaviour (Knight and Hilgert in Ahmadi, 1992), whereas linguistics scientifically studies language including everything it is constituted of and related to. Hence, psycholinguistics is concerned with the study of language in relation to psychology including human experience and behaviour.

Psycholinguistics Is a Branch of Linguistics

As a branch of linguistics Psycholinguistics deals with the mutual relationship between language and the human mind. The main purpose of psycholinguistics is how human psychology is enabled to acquire, produce and understand the language.

Psycholinguistics emerged to study by individuals in the different types of fields, for example, psychology, cognitive science, phonetics, etc.

It as a separate branch of study, it emerged in the late 1950s and 1960s as a result of the Chomskyan revolution. The ideas presented by Chomsky become so important that they quickly gained a lot of publicity and had a big impact on a large number of contemporary views of language and language acquisition.

As a result, psycholinguists start researching such issues as the handling of profound and surface structures of sentences. In the early long periods of the advancement of psycholinguistics, special investigations were planned to examine whether the focus of processing is the grammatical structure.

Based on the change of sentences, it was at first found that the simplicity of preparing was associated with syntactic intricacy. In any case, it later turned out to be evident that not just syntactic multifaceted nature adds to the trouble of preparing, yet additionally, semantic elements have a solid effect upon it.

What is psycholinguistics

Scholar’s observation about Psycholinguistics

Psycholinguistics explores how a child secures his/her first language.  Let us see how scholars observe the different aspects of Psycholinguistics and language acquisition.

Skinner (1957) considered language learning as a linguistic habit formation through the mechanism of stimulus, response and reinforcement, (the behaviourist hypothesis). Chomsky (1957, 1968) revealed that the language acquisition device (LAD) responsible for language learning ( the innate theory). Lenneberg (1966, 1967, 1969) asserted a nearby correspondence between physical development and the stage of language development (the biological theory. Halliday (1975) exaggerated language develops since a child has to interact with others in his/her condition (the sociological theory).

Besides, it studies how a child develops the ability in his/her first language and mother tongue by going through several stages from the pre-linguistic stage on the adult stage. Further, it focuses on the nature and process of second language learning through the concepts of the monitor (Krashen, 1977,  1981), interlanguage (Selinker, 1972), acculturation (Schumann, 1978,  1990), universal grammar (Chomsky,  1980) and so forth. Moreover, it covers the study of the second language (L2) learner factors such as aptitude, attitudes, motivation, age, intelligence, cognitive styles, personality and others affecting the rate of learning or achievement. However, as we know that psycholinguistics is the study of language development, it can be divided into several sub-categories. For example:

  1. Developmental psycholinguistics
  2. Neurolinguistics
  3. Clinical linguistics
  4. Second language acquisition

Developmental psycholinguistics

Developmental psycholinguistics usually deals with how children used to understand and produce the sounds of their first language. This can be considered as ‘child language development‘. In the language acquisition period, a child tries to imitate his or her parents when he or she learns how to speak the mother tongue? However, developmental psycholinguistics studies how children are able to acquire a language and how they formulate these rules.


 Neurolinguistics mainly deals with the relationship between the human brain and linguistic procedure. Further, It is concerned with the function of the brain in learning and how to use language in a proper way. Afterwards, Neurolinguistics analyzes how the structure of the brain influence language learning.

Clinical linguistics

Clinical linguistics is concerned with human suffering from brain damage which affected their ability to process and produce the language. It also deals with several types of speech disorders which interrupt people to understand and speak the language.

Second language acquisition

Psycholinguistics also deals with how humans are able to acquire a second language. In other words, it is concerned with how people develop their proficiency in a foreign language. This is how a student can able to find the procedure of second language acquisition by studying psycholinguistics.

To sum up, we may say that psycholinguistics as a branch of linguistics describes the psychological process of language acquisition. Further, how people acquire a second language and how to use a language in a proper way. In short, it deals with the relationship between language and the human mind.

However, after the above discussion, we will able to understand what is psycholinguistics in English. After all, we may say psycholinguistics works to analyse human language.


Lyons, J., & Wales, R (Eds.) (1979) Psycholinguistics papers. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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