Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

A Brief Review of Linguistic and Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Language Processing

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

A Brief Review of Linguistic and Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Language Processing

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

While giving an introduction to the general Linguistics domain, it is often broadly divided into Macro-linguistics and Micro-linguistics. The Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics (Bussmann, 2006) defines Macro-linguistics as the "scientific investigation of language in the broadest sense, i.e., in the context of all related disciplines such as sociology, psychology, and philosophy" (p. 714).Within this definition, what is emphasized is the relationship between Linguistics and the various fields and areas related to the human being endowed with the capability to produce and comprehend language. Hence, in this sense, we can specifically refer to Psycholinguistics, Sociolinguistics, or Neurolinguistics among many others, but we cannot include Geolinguistics or Chemolinguistics. On the other hand, MicroLinguistics is a much more focused approach which is defined by the same dictionary as the "science dealing with the structure of language as an autonomous sign system. This restriction requires a language system to be abstracted and dealt with separately from extra linguistic approaches (i.e., those referring to such disciplines as philosophy, sociology, psychology, and logics)" (p. 747). This definition of Micro-linguistics emphasizes the following keywords: 'structure', 'autonomous', 'sign system', and 'abstracted'. Thus, Micro-linguistics attempts to look into language and its structure on its own, without consideration of the contexts and conditions in which it is used. Generally, Syntax, Morphology, Phonology and Semantics are assumed to be included in the Micro-linguistics domain.

This categorization is only for convenience since it is not possible to deal with Psycholinguistics, for instance, without trying to understand the structure of the concept under investigation, or to study Micro-linguistics by formulating theories about its structure without being curious about how this structure is put to use, acquired or processed. This is probably not even a matter of choice as the theories and hypotheses entertained in one domain necessarily have ramifications in the other domain. For instance, it is only natural that theories about the structure of language should respect the way our brain works. From a different standpoint, one would expect cognitive research to utilize linguistic insights while studying their subject.

The convenient categorization of Macro- and Micro-linguistics is reflected as a heated dichotomy in the fields of Linguistics and Psycholinguistics. At first, it seems natural to categorize the former as another name for Micro-linguistics and the latter as a Macro-linguistics subdomain, as the former focuses on the structure of language itself as a system on its own, while the latter studies the psychological aspects of language. While this conceptualization may be valid to some extent, the position of the two fields with respect to one another still remains largely unclear. It is generally thought that while Linguistics studies the linguistic representations entertained by a speaker of a particular language, Psycholinguistics focuses on the way these representations are retrieved or constructed in real-time language comprehension and production (Phillips & Wagers, 2007). From a traditional Linguistic perspective, advocated for more than half a century by Chomsky's Generative Grammar, the dichotomy between Linguistics and Psycholinguistics lies in the distinction between competence and performance (Chomsky, 1965). Linguistic competence is generally regarded as the knowledge of language that the native speakers have, allowing them to accurately tell whether a particular expression in their native language is grammatically accurate or not. This notion of competence is reflected in the fact that native speakers usually agree upon acceptable and unacceptable expressions, and that languages have an expressive power allowing memorization of possible representations. By accepting this notion of linguistic competence, the predominant method in linguistic studies has been the use of grammatical accuracy judgments obtained from native speakers (for a discussion of the methods in Linguistics, see Myers, 2009; Phillips, 2009). …

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