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  1. 1. U of K Faculty of Arts Department of Linguistics Applied Linguistic Psycholinguistics By, Ahmed Sosal ALtayeb M. 1. What is psycholinguistics?Psycholinguistics is the study of the cognitive process that support the acquisition and use oflanguage. 1.1. A brief history of psycholinguistics:Although it is often traced to a conference held in Cornell, USA, in the summer of 1951, and theuse of the word “psycholinguistics” in Osgood and Sebeok‟s (1954) book describing thatconference, the approach was certainly used before then. For example, Francis Galton studiedword associations in 1879. In Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, Meringer and Mayer(1895) analyzed slips of the tongue in a remarkably modern way. (Harley 2001:11)Information theory (Shannon & Weaver, 1949): emphasized the role of probability andredundancy in language, and developed out of the demands of the early telecommunicationsindustry. Information theory was important because of its influence in the development ofcognitive psychology.Behaviourism: This emphasized the relation between an input (or stimulus) and output(response), and how conditioning and reinforcement formed these associations. For behaviorists,the only valid subject matter for psychology was behavior, and language was behavior just likeany other.This approach perhaps reached its acme in 1957 with the publication of B.F. Skinner‟s famous (orto linguists, notorious) book Verbal Behavior.Psycholinguistics goes to the heart of what we do with language. It provides insights into  how we assemble our own speech and writing;  how we understand that of others;  how we store and use vocabulary;  how we manage to acquire a language in the first place; and into  how language can fail us.(Field John 2005). 1.2. Psycholinguistics scope includes; o Language performance (under different circumstances) 1
  2. 2. o First language acquisition, o Adults‟ comprehension and production, etc. 1.3. A broad view of psycholinguistics discipline might involve all of the following (Field John 2005). (a) Language processing: including the language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening and the part played by memory in language. (b) Lexical storage and retrieval: how we store words in our minds and how we find them when we need them. (c) Language acquisition: how an infant acquires its first language. (d) Special circumstances: the effects upon language of (e.g.) deafness, blindness or being twin; conditions such as dyslexia or aphasia (the loss of language after brain damage). (e) The brain and language: where language is located in the brain, how it evolved and whether it is a faculty that is unique to human beings. (f) Second language acquisition and use.( this one is omitted sometimes as it developed independently) 2. The concept of monolingualism and bilingualismBilinguals more than monolingualism provide a genuinely universal account of the cognitivemechanisms that underlie language performance. This is because bilinguals‟ number in the worldin more than that of monolinguals and the use of two or more languages is a powerful tool forinvestigating issues of cognitive representation.There are main assumptions to be considered: 1. There are common basis shared by those bilinguals who are acquiring second language as they rely on similar cognitive mechanism. 2. These mechanisms are generally universal across languages. 3. The same cognitive resources are available to all learners (e.g. making use of memory and attention resources) 3. Cognitive model: language production in bilingualsThe creator of this model is the Dutch psycholinguist William Levelt. His „speaking‟ model(1989-1999) aims at describing the process of language production from the development ofcommunication intentions to the articulation of the sounds. 3.1. This theory involves the following components: 1. Conceptualize: Here communication intentions are turned into something that can be expressed in human language. 2. Formulator: Here isolated words and meanings are turned into sentences that are translated accordingly into sounds by the third component which is 3. The articulator. 3.2. From a lexical point of view this model can be seen follows: First select lexical items on the basis of the meaning we want to express. Then through syntactic procedures we will reach sentence formation which leads to The formation of the surface structure then the final step which is 2
  3. 3. Phonological encoding provides an input for the articulator in the form of a phonetic plan which leads to The spoken utterance.The problem of Levelt‟s speaking model is primary a model of fully component monolingualspeakers. So to turn it into a bilingual model the following factors are to be considered Poulisse(1997):  L2 knowledge is typically incomplete (e.g. to avoid words or structures about which they feel uncertain.  L2 speech is more hesitate, and contains more errors and slips, depending on the level of proficiency of the learners.  L2 speech often carries traces of L1. 4. How bilingual speakers keep their languages apart?Psycholinguistically, code-switching and keeping languages apart are different aspects of samephenomenon. There was a proposal that there were „switches‟ controlling the input and output ofdifferent languages but these have been abandoned.Sub-Set hypothesisIt proposed by Paradis (1981) it states that words from a given language form a sub-set of thetotal inventory and each set can be activated independently.For instance in situation where code-switching is the norm; speakers may develop a sub-set inwhich words from more than one language can be used together.The sub-set hypothesis may explain how languages in bilinguals may be kept apart, but not howthe choice of a given language is made.According to the sub-set hypothesis, bilingual and monolingual speakers have stores where thereare different languages, varieties, styles and registers. 5. Language ChoiceIn speaking the most crucial step is the matching of the pre-verbal message with the meaning,because here the transition from language independent conceptualization to language specifictakes place.Lexical items consist of two parts: 1. The lemma where the lexical entries meaning and syntax are represented. 2. The lexeme where the morphological and phonological prosperities are represented.In Levelt‟s description the lemma consists of three parts: 3
  4. 4. (a) The semantic specification: refers to the set of conceptual conditions under which the lemma can be appropriately used. (b) The syntactic information: refers to the syntactic category of a lemma and its grammatical functions. (c) Pointer to particular lexeme: this because lexemes contain the phonological specifications of a lemma and the morphological make up. When choosing lemmas language is one of the features used in the selection process. For the selection of the lemma „boy‟ for instance, not only do the semantic features „male‟ and „young‟ have to match relevant conceptual information in the pre-verbal message, but for a bilingual speaker who has English as one of his languages, the lemma „boy‟ will also need to contain information about which language it belongs to (English) and this information will have to match the language cue in the pre-verbal message. 6. Experimental studies of languages production in L1 and L2Studies on language production in contrast to those in language comprehension are less because itis difficult to apply what has been used in language comprehension in language productionstudies.Investigating the planning of utterances in real time in some experimental studies shows thattypically even proficient bilinguals are faster to name things (such as pictures) in L1 than L2)because of Bilingual speakers are slower to access the phonology of L2 than L2 and therefore they are slower in any production task in L2. L2 is not only slower but also harder to select as output. L2 lemmas may be more weakly activated than the corresponding L1 lemmas.Inhibitory control modelIt has been introduced by Green in 1998. It is main concern is to understand the source of thiscontrol as either, It arise from within the processing dynamics of the lexicon or It extremely imposed by general cognitive mechanisms. 7. Illustrative research on second language acquisition and bilingualism7.1. The non-selective nature of lexical accessLexical access refers to how knowledge of bilinguals two languages is organized and accessed inparticular for understanding the role of the L1 during L2 acquisition.  Early researches in this issue suggested that lexical access was indeed selective by language. There are two approaches to this problem as follows: (a) One approach is to ask bilinguals to make lexical decision about letter strings that might be words in one or both of their languages. 4
  5. 5. (b) Gerard and Scarborough (1989) used the lexical decision to test the selectivity of lexical access by having English-Spanish bilinguals judge whether letter strings were real words in their L2. For example in Spanish the word red means net, whereas in English that same letter string refers to a color. The result was that bilinguals were able to accept an interlingual homograph as a real word as quickly as a control word that was exclusively a word in one language only.  Most recently the conclusion that lexical access is selective by language has been challenged by a series of studies such as: (a) Instead of including only L1 words that were homographs L1 words that were not similar to English words were also included. The result suggests that when the non-target language was sufficiently active, the alternative reading of L1 word was also active. (b) Subsequent research has supported the claim that lexical access is language non-selective in comprehension. This because even skilled bilinguals appear to be unable to control the consequences of activating information in the unintended language, at least in these out- of-context word recognition tasks. 7.2. Developing lexical proficiency in a second languageInitially, the high degree of activation of L1 influence processing in L2 but the effect of L1 on L2that can be obtained with competent bilinguals are less likely to be seen..The main focus of psycholinguistic research on the development of L2 expertise has instead beenon availability of the L1 translation equivalent during L2 processing. An important paper bypotter et al. (1984) comes out with conclusions that bilinguals conceptually mediate L2 withoutL1 influence. The result of L2 learners suggested that at earlier stages of L2 development therewas indeed lexical mediation whereby L1 translation equivalents were activated to facilitateaccess to concepts.More recent research has considered the implications of this developmental course, for example isthe early reliance on L1 something that one outgrows when one gains sufficient knowledge andautomaticity in L2? According to Kroll and Stewart (1994) the answer was no as they showedthat  The performance of even a group of highly proficient Dutch-English bilinguals revealed the use of direct lexical-to-lexical connections to perform translation from L2 to L1 and  When bilinguals translated words from L1 to L2, there were strong effects of a semantic variable, whether the words appeared in lists that were organized by semantic category or randomly mixed. 7.3. Forgetting and relearning (storage and retrieval)Through non-use of a language the level of activation of knowledge is that language decreases,even to the point that the knowledge is considered lost. De Bot and Stoessel (2000) reported on anumber of experiments on reactivation of language skills using the savings method which isbased on the assumption that words, are never really lost and that even for words that cannot berecognized using traditional test procedures there are residues of knowledge that possibly can beused un reactivating these words. 5
  6. 6. They showed that significant saving effects for the old words, which helped to activate them.These findings can be used to help language learners who learned a second language at somepoints in the past reactivate the language they feel they have forgotten. 7.4. Implications (a) The main implication of all what have been mentioned is that for both language production and language perception two factors determine accessibility of linguistic elements in particular in non-balanced bilinguals and language learners  Information acquisition and storage and  Information accessibility in time. (b) Another implication is that much of our linguistic knowledge is by definition unstable.Psycholinguistic observe hypothesis such as the one which claims that bilinguals or learning anadditional language at any age will have negative consequences on cognitive processing, butbasically no empirical evidence to support such assumptions.References - Bot de Kees & Jdith F Kroll; Psycholinguistics in An introduction to Applies Linguistics; Schmitt Norbert ed. (2002); - Field John (2005); PSYCHOLINGUISTICS: The Key Concepts; Routledge; London and New York. - Harley Trevor A. (2001); The Psychology of Language From Data to Theory, Psychology press; HOVE AND NEW YOR. 6