Psycholinguistics : The Key Concepts

Psycholinguistics : The Key Concepts  pdf by  John Field

Psycholinguistics : The Key Concepts  pdf by  John FieldPsycholinguistics : Why this book?

Psycholinguistics goes to the heart of what we do with language. It provides insights into how we assemble our own speech and writing and how we understand that of others; into how we store and use vocabulary; into how we manage to acquire a language in the first place; and into how language can fail us. One might therefore expect it to occupy a central place in any course of general linguistics, applied linguistics, communication studies or second language teaching. Yet it often does not.

The reason is that it is traditionally a difficult area to study. This is partly because of its cross-disciplinary nature. Any linguist who forms an interest in the subject has to tackle certain areas of psychological theory, while a psychologist cannot approach it without an adequate knowledge of linguistics. And, as George Miller observed (1990: 321), linguists and psychologists tend to have different perspectives on language: ‘Linguists and psychologists talk about different things… Grammarians are more interested in what could be said than in what people actually say, which irritates psychologists, and psychologists insist on supplementing intuition with objective evidence, which irritates linguists.’

To this, one must add that Psycholinguistics overlaps with many other domains: among them, phonetics, discourse analysis, language pathology, neuroscience, computer modelling and language teaching pedagogy. For those of us who know and love the subject, this breadth of scope is what makes it so fascinating; but to an intending student the eclecticism can be daunting, to say the least.

To this, one must add that Psycholinguistics overlaps with many other domains: among them, phonetics, discourse analysis, language pathology, neuroscience, computer modelling and language teaching pedagogy. For those of us who know and love the subject, this breadth of scope is what makes it so fascinating; but to an intending student the eclecticism can be daunting, to say the least.

A second source of difficulty is the inaccessible nature of many psycholinguistic ideas and findings. They are usually reported in specialist psychology journals, in a form that requires a knowledge of terminology and a familiarity with theory that an intending student is unlikely to possess. There are indeed a number of handbooks which provide an overview of the subject; but they are mostly aimed at the Master’s student or assume a basic grounding in psychology.

Far from treating Psycholinguistics as an instructional challenge, British universities have tended to respond by sidelining the subject. It is often taught by non-specialists, who themselves find it difficult to access information or appropriate teaching material. There are Master’s courses in ‘Applied Linguistics’, and even Applied Linguistics conferences, in which mainstream Psycholinguistics is virtually ignored. Worse, the term ‘psycholinguistic’ is occasionally used to give spurious respectability to ideas unconnected with the discipline and unsupported by evidence within it.

In the USA, the position is rosier: Psycholinguistics features prominently in many course programmes. But it is still no easy task to present it to undergraduate majors in Linguistics or to postgraduate students who have never been exposed to Psychology. And in the USA, as in Britain and in many other parts of the world, the important field of TESOL (Teaching Speakers of Other Languages) has barely benefited at all from the vital research findings that Psycholinguistics has uncovered — simply because bridges have not been built to its students and its practitioners.

It is hoped that the present volume will mark a small step towards rectifying these problems. Its purpose is to make Psycholinguistics accessible to all those who wish to find a way into the subject. In all, over 350 key ideas are identified, and a brief introduction is given to the thinking and the findings which lie behind each. The concepts are explained systematically, with basic principles leading to more elaborate issues of theory. The book uses a language that avoids technical terms; and does not take for granted any previous knowledge of the field. Some background in basic linguistics is assumed, but even here the more complex notions are glossed where possible.

Psycholinguistics: The Key Concepts

is one of the first major reference works to make this important area of study available to the nonspecialist reader. The target readership includes students at undergraduate or at Master’s level who are new to the field; general linguists who wish to widen their knowledge of Psycholinguistics or are asked to teach introductory courses; teachers of first and foreign languages wanting to know more about the processes involved in reading, writing, speaking and listening; and all members of the public at large who are curious about the extraordinarily complex and apparently effordess faculty that we call language.

CONTENTS

List of illustrations
Introduction
Acknowledgements
List of concepts
A key to the English phonemic symbols used in this book

KEY CONCEPTS

Bibliography
Index

Language: English
Format: PDF
Pages: 387
Size: 1.76 Mb
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