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General linguistics 11

Chapter 11 Psycholinguistics— the study of language and thought
11.1 What is psycholinguistics? 11.2 The relationship between language and thought 11.3 Language comprehension 11.4 Langua

ge production

11.1 What is psycholinguistics?
? Psycholinguistics is the study of language in

relation to the mind. ? Psycholinguistics is viewed as the intersection of psychology and linguistics, which studies the ways we acquire, produce and comprehend languages. ? There are mainly two branches in psycholinguistics: cognitive psycholinguistics which studies the continuity of language with the workings of

the mind in general and seeking to ground a theory of psycholinguistics in accounts of cognition and experimental psycholinguistics which is the investigation through experiments of the psychological mechanism for the production and understanding of speech. ? Related terms include: Psychology of language deals with general topics concerning the relationship between language and thought; And psychology of communication which is the study of both verbal and non-verbal communications from the psychological point of view.

11.2 The relationship between language and thought
11.2.1 Early views on language and thought ? Plato suggested that thought was the soul’s discourse with itself. In other words, thought and language were identical. This is called the monistic view. ? Aristotle argued that mankind could not have the same languages and that languages were but signs of psychological experiences.

? Too much evidence exists to contradict the

monistic view: 1) “I don’t know how to express my idea with words.” 2) Animal’s lack of language does not prevent them from thinking. 3) The deaf-mute is able to think but could not speak the language of his own community. 4) Man could make a simple hand-axe or flake tool about 1,750,000 years ago when their speech organs could only cope with crying and shouting.

5) There are other channels for communicating our thoughts besides language like music and sculpture. 11.2.2 Sapir-Whorf hypothesis The hypothesis was proposed by the American anthropologist and linguist Edward Sapir and later his student Benjamin Lee Whorf. It has two major thrusts: linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity, which may be summarized as follows:


(1) One’s thinking is completely determined by his native language because one cannot but perceive the world in terms of the categories and distinctions encoded in the language. (2) The categories and distinctions encoded in one language system are unique to that system and incommensurable with those of other system.

11.2.3 The relation of language and thought ? Language and thought may be viewed as two independent circles overlapping in some parts, where language and thought are consistent with each other and one never occurs without the other. ? Although language and thought may blend together as “verbal thought” and “inner speech”, there are occasions when one can think without language, just as one may speak without thinking.

? Language does not so much determine the

way we think as it influences the way we perceive the world and recall things, and affects the ease with which we perform mental tasks.

11.3 Language comprehension
? 11.3.1 The comprehension of words
? 11.3.2 The comprehension of sentences ? 11.3.3 The comprehension of texts

11.3.1 The comprehension of words Word recognition may be explained by the following theories: A. Cohort theory(同级理论) B. Frequency effect(频效) C. Recency effects (时效) D. Context (语境效果)

11.3.2 The comprehension of sentences ? Psycholinguists first began to examine the comprehension of sentences by basing their research on the model of sentence grammar originally proposed by Chomsky on the 1950s. ? Chomsky’s model claimed that all sentences were “generated” from a phrase structure skeleton which was then fleshed out in everyday utterances by a series of transformational rules.

? Psycholinguists based their early

experiments on sentence pairs like the following: (1) The dog is chasing the cat. (2) Isn’t the cat being chased by the dog? ? Psycholinguists who first experimented with this called it the Derivational Theory of Complexity (DTC), because difficulty in comprehension was derived from the number of transformations that were added on to the original phrase structure of the kernel sentence.


(1) (2) (3)

For example, subjects were given a random assortment of sentences like the following and were then asked to recall both the sentence they had just heard and a string of words spoken immediately after the sentence. The dog is chasing the cat. Bus/green/etc. The dog isn’t chasing the cat. Car/blue/etc. Is the cat being chased by the dog? Bike/pink/peach/etc. Isn’t the cat being chased by the dog? train/yellow/stool/etc.

? The general tendency for all listeners and

readers to make increasingly confident predictions about the meaning of a sentence as it progresses is well-tested in psycholinguistics and is called gardenpathing. ? A well-documented example of this phenomenon is : Since Jay always jogs a mile seems like a short distance to him. Since Jay always jogs a mile this seems like a short distance to him.

11.3.3 The comprehension of texts Psycholinguistic research into the comprehension of texts has demonstrated: ? Our syntactic memory may be vague, but it is not haphazard; we tend to remember sentences in a form that is actually simpler than the structure which we originally read or heard. ? The presence or absence of background information can dramatically affect the way we remember a piece of discourse.

11.4 Language production
6.4.1 Speech production 6.4.2 Written language production

6.4.1 Speech production
? Slips of the tongue provide the data that

delight the psycholinguists in that they allow us to peek in on the production process because we know what the speaker intended to say, but the unintentional mistake freezes the production process momentarily.

? Spoonerism is named after the Victorian

cleric and teacher, William Spooner, who reputedly blundered through many a lecture or sermon with infamous slips in speech production. He called a group of Welsh miners “You noble tons of soil”. And supposedly scolded an errant student by saying, “You have hissed all my mystery lectures; in fact, you have tasted the whole worm.”

? 1. a reading list

a leading list 2. big and fat pig and fat 3. fill the pool fool the pill 4. drop a bomb bop a dromb People who come up with odd expressions like these still follow the sound patterns of English.

? 1.Sesame seed crackers

sesame street

crackers 2. Rules of word formation words of rule formation 3. A New Yorker a New Yorkan 4. The derivation of the derival of When we formulate speech, we are not only influenced by the sound systems of the language we are speaking, we are also conditioned by the way words are put together in that language.


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