Psycholinguistics or ‘the psychology of language’ encompasses so many different aspects of language, from language acquisition to syntax and semantics, phonology and morphology. With current and future technological advances and with the collaboration of other disciplines, psycholinguistics aims to advance our understanding of the human brain.


Psycholinguistics involves:

  • language processing – reading, writing, speaking, listening and memory [1]. For instance, how words on paper are turned into meaning in the mind.
  • lexical storage and retrieval – the way words are stored in our minds and used. How we are able to map words onto objects such as ‘ball’ and actions such as ‘kick’ and ‘love’ and access these when needed.
  • language acquisition – how language is first learnt and used by children. For example, learning the rules of grammar and how to communicate with other people.
  • special circumstances – how internal and external factors can impact language development, such as twins and their use of ‘twin language’, the influence of hearing and vision impairments on acquisition, and how damage to the brain can affect certain aspects of language.
  • the brain and language – evolutionary explanations of why humans have the capacity to use language, and the parts of the brain concerned with different areas of language, also considering whether or not non-human animals have the ability to use language too.
  • second language acquisition and use – looking at bilingualism and how individuals can learn a second language and are able to differentiate between them.

The common aim of psycholinguistics is “to find out about the structures and processes which underlie a human’s ability to speak and understand language” [2].

Watch the video below that compares psycholinguistics to a television set:


[1] Field, J., (2004). Psycholinguistics: The Key Concepts. New York: Routledge
[2] Aitchison, J., (1976) The Articulate Mammal: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics. New York: Routledge.

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