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Related to psycholinguistics: sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics


the study of psychological states and mental activity associated with the use of language. An important focus of psycholinguistics is the largely unconscious application of grammatical rules that enable people to produce and comprehend intelligible sentences. Psycholinguists investigate the relationship between language and thought, a perennial subject of debate being whether language is a function of thinking or thought a function of the use of language. However, most problems in psycholinguistics are more concrete, involving the study of linguistic performance and language acquisitionlanguage acquisition,
the process of learning a native or a second language. The acquisition of native languages is studied primarily by developmental psychologists and psycholinguists.
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, especially in children. The work of Noam ChomskyChomsky, Noam
, 1928–, educator and linguist, b. Philadelphia. Chomsky, who has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955, developed a theory of transformational (sometimes called generative or transformational-generative) grammar that revolutionized
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 and other proponents of transformational grammar have had a marked influence on the field. Neurolinguists study the brain activity involved in language use, obtaining much of their data from people whose ability to use language has been impaired due to brain damage.


See D. Foss and D. Hakes, Psycholinguistics (1978); V. C. Tartter, Language Processes (1986); A. Radford, Syntactic Theory and the Acquisition of English Syntax (1990).


An area of study which draws from linguistics and psychology and focuses upon the comprehension and production of language. Although psychologists have long been interested in language, and the field of linguistics is an older science than psychology, scientists in the two fields have had little contact until the work of Noam Chomsky was published in the late 1950s. Chomsky's writing had the effect of making psychologists acutely aware of their lack of knowledge about the structure of language, and the futility of focusing attention exclusively upon the surface structure of language. As a result, psycholinguists, who have a background of training in both linguistics and psychology, have been attempting since the early 1960s to gain a better understanding of how the abstract rules which determine human language are acquired and used to communicate appropriately created meaningful messages from one person to another via the vocal-auditory medium. Research has been directed to the evolutionary development of language, the biological bases of language, the nature of the sound system, the rules of syntax, the nature of meaning, and the process of language acquisition.


the study of linguistic behaviour, including language acquisition, grammar, and the relationship between language and thought. CHOMSKY is one of the crucial figures in this area, but see also SAPIR-WHORF HYPOTHESIS. See also LINGUISTICS, SOCIOLINGUISTICS.



the study of the rules by which speech utterances are generated and perceived. Psycholinguis-tics arose in the 1950’s in response to the emergence of practical problems that the apparatus of linguistics and traditional psychology proved inadequate to solve. These problems included the influencing of society through speech, issues in engineering psychology, and problems brought on by the intensified study of foreign languages.

In the USSR, psycholinguistics emerged in the 1960’s on the basis of L. S. Vygotskii’s Soviet school of psychology and linguistic traditions going back to L. V. Shcherba. Soviet psycholinguistics (sometimes called the theory of speech activity) regards speech as a form of purposeful human behavior, subject to the general laws of the organization of activity. Research has proceeded in a number of basic directions. Models of the grammatical generation of utterances have been studied by A. A. Leont’ev, T. V. Riabova, I. A. Zimniaia, and E. M. Vereshchagin. The mechanisms of perception and comprehension of the semantic aspects of speech and the laws of the semantic organization of human linguistic capability in general have been researched by A. A. Brudnyi and A. P. Klimenko. R. M. Frumkina and others have examined probability organization in the perception of speech. Intensive study is being devoted to the psychology of communication and the laws by which integral and connected texts are constructed. The main spheres of practical application are in foreign language study, engineering and space psychology, the study of children’s speech, and the study of the way speech influences people (radio, oratory, and so on).

Several trends are found in psycholinguistic study abroad. The neobehaviorist school is led in the USA by C. Osgood. There is a school based on N. Chomsky’s theory of generative grammars and headed by the American psychologist G. Miller. A third trend, an offshoot of the last-named, seeks to synthesize the achievements of Millerian psycholinguistics and those of classical European psychology; representatives include R. Rommetveit (Norway), G. Flores d’Arcais (Italy), W. Levelt (Netherlands), and J. Morton (England). Psycholinguistics is also rapidly developing in Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Japan. Scholars in the German Democratic Republic, Rumania (T. Slama-Kazacu), Czechoslovakia, and other socialist countries hold views similar in many ways to those of Soviet psycholinguists.


Miller, G., E. Galanter, and K. Pribram. Plany i struktura povedeniia. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from English.)
Leont’ev, A. A. Psikholingvistika. Leningrad, 1967.
Rechevoe vozdeistvie. Moscow, 1972.
Psikholingvistika za rubezhom. Moscow, 1972.
Osnovy teorii rechevoi deiatel’nosti. Moscow, 1974.
Psycholinguistics, 3rd ed. Bloomington, Ind.-London, 1967.
Slama-Cazacu, T. Introducere in psiholingvistică. Bucharest, 1968. Slama-Cazacu, T. La Psycholinguistique. Paris, 1972.
Advances in Psycholinguistics. Amsterdam-London, 1970.
Hörmann, H. Psycholinguistics. Berlin, 1971.
Slobin, D. Psycholinguistics. Glenview, III.-London, 1971.
Průcha, J. Soviet Psycholinguistics. The Hague-Paris, 1972.


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