The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory

The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory

The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory

The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory


This comprehensive study of the psychology of language explores how we speak, read, remember, learn and understand language. The author examines each of these aspects in detail.


I welcome this opportunity to write a second edition of The Psychology of Language, and I would like to thank Mike Forster of Psychology Press for giving it to me.

As I remarked in the preface to the first edition, although language might not be all that makes us human, it is hard to imagine being human without it. Given the importance of language in our behaviour, it is perhaps surprising that until not so long ago, relatively scant attention was paid to it in undergraduate courses. Often at best it was studied as part of a general course on cognitive psychology. That situation has changed. Furthermore, the research field of psycholinguistics is blossoming, as evinced by the growth in the number of papers on the subject, and indeed, in the number of journals dedicated to it. With this growth and this level of interest, it is perhaps surprising that there are still relatively few textbooks devoted to psycholinguistics. I hope this book will fill this gap. It is aimed at intermediate and advanced-level undergraduates, although new postgraduates might also find it useful, and I would be delighted if it found other readers.

I have tried to make as many of the references as possible point towards easily obtainable material. I have therefore avoided citing unpublished papers, doctoral theses, and conference papers. New papers are coming out all the time, and if I were to make this book completely up-to-date, I would never stop. Therefore I have decided to call a halt, with a very few exceptions, at material published in 2000. Of course, given current publication lags, much of this material would actually have been written some years before, and the current state of people's thinking and work, as discussed in conferences and seminars, might be very different from the positions attributed in this book. This is most unfortunate, but unavoidable.

It is now impossible to appreciate psycholinguistics without some understanding of connectionism. Unfortunately, this is a topic that many people find difficult. The formal details of connectionist models are given here in an Appendix: I hope this does not mean that it will not be read. I toyed with a structure where the technical details were given when the class of model was first introduced, but a more general treatment seemed more appropriate. I was swayed by Alan Kennedy in making this decision.

I have been very gratified by the positive feedback I have received on the first edition of this book, and the number of suggestions and comments people have made. I have tried to take these into account in this revision. “Taking into account” does not mean “agreeing to everything”; after consideration, there are some suggestions that I decided against. One of these was numbering sections, which I find aesthetically displeasing. I take the general point that there are a lot of cross-references, but I regard this as a positive aspect: we should try to foster as many connections between

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