What is Psycholinguistics?

How and why does a person speak and write down thoughts or ideas? How is speech possible? What makes a person say or write things simply or in a more complicated method? What goes on in the mind when a person talks, listens or writes?

The answers to the questions posed above are under the scope and coverage of psycholinguistics, also known as the psychology of linguistics or languages, thus, a combination of two (2) disciplines. It is the science that delves or looks into the psychological make-up and mental processes that are involved when people speak or write using language as a medium.

As can be observed in the use of language, a speaker or writer utilizes a word or a sentence; and may resort to lengthy sentences that when taken together constitute what is known as discussion or discourse. The application of psycholinguistics fits into place at this instance. It essays its role of finding the meaning of the word, sentence and discussion used, and gives explanation on how these are being sorted out in the mind of a person while speaking or writing.

Further, it scrutinizes carefully how complicated words and sentences are used that consists of a spoken language thereby giving meaning to what was referred, talked about or written. It then probes how intricate words or sentences become parts or components of a speech and imparts an explanation how these come into the scene of listening and reading.

It can be spotted easily then that in the investigation or the conduct of research about language, it entails other related disciplines. As such, psycholinguistics is being analyzed by other professionals in different fields like cognitive science, biology, neuroscience, psychology and linguistics.

Through the pioneering efforts of Professor Noam Chomsky, a fresh link between the two (2) disciplines - psychology and linguistics - was proven. This breakthrough happened during the 1950s. Earlier on, as can be examined in his first book, Syntactic Structures, published in 1997, he strongly raised his opposing view against the long-established theory on how language is acquired as well as the verbal learning theory espoused by B. F. Skinner, the leading advocate of behaviorism.

Professor Chomsky's theory states that "language acquisition device" (LAD) which he defines as the "universal innate ability" is responsible for a child's ability to build a grammar in an orderly fashion and to produce phrases. He added that it is through LAD that kids can get hold of their skills on language in a more than the usual way in contrast to their acquisition of other capabilities.

That is why as further observed among children, they usually perfect the basic rules on language at the young age of four (4). To prove it, he stated that based on observations, the young ones easily comprehend the changes that are taking place in sentence making using the different kinds of sentences - declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory. Additionally, they can also manage such alteration of sentences by themselves. This is the proof given by Prof. Chomsky's to substantiate his theory that there indeed lies a universal built-in or natural ability in children to determine the relationship within the fundamental rules or patterns of syntax.

In fact, he firmly claimed that the basic reason, what he termed as "deep structure" of all languages is the same and the perfection of it by the human race is not acquired but it is genetically developed.

Professor Chomsky's hugely contentious theories once again opened the traditional discourse of whether language takes place in the mind before experience and provide a clear distinction between the competence of language - the know-how on the regulations and structure - and performance - how an individual actually uses the language. His theories, albeit novel, remarkably created a strong influence over the modern studies of psycholinguistics.

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