What is Psycholinguistics?

Psycholinguistics | A Complete Guideline on Psycholinguistics

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What Is Psycholinguistics?

The term ‘Psycholinguistics’ comes from psychology (mental process) and linguistics (systematic study of language development), both of which are branches of science.

Psychology covers the systematic study of human experience and behaviour (Knight and Hilgert in Ahmadi, 1992), whereas linguistics is the scientific study of language including everything it is constituted of and related to. 

The fundamental objective of psycholinguistics is to assume the mental process of learning, producing, and properly understand the language. It also studies how human beings acquire, understand and store language.

Hence, it is concerned with the study of language about psychology including human experience and behavior.

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 language.

It emerged to study by individuals in different fields, for example; psychology, cognitive science, phonetics, etc.

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 complexity. 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.

Scholarly Observation on 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 to 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

1. 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 can 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 properly.

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 language.

It also deals with several types of speech disorders that interrupt people to understand and speak the language.

Second Language Acquisition

Psycholinguistics also deals with how humans can 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 properly. In short, it deals with the relationship between language and the human mind.

However, after the above discussion, we will be able to understand what is psycholinguistics in linguistics. After all, we may say psycholinguistics as a branch of linguistics works to analyze the relationship between language and the human mind.


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

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