SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Psychology of Language (Masters)

Module Code:
Taught in:
Term 2
This course examines the psychological and cognitive mechanisms which underlie the acquisition and function of human language. It addresses questions such as: Is there such a thing as a Language Instinct? Why is learning a new language easier for children than for adults? What processes are involved in the production and comprehension of language? How are the various aspects of language knowledge and use modelled in the brain? What is the relationship between language, thought and concept formation? Students will be introduced to the theories, methodology and controversies relating to some of the central topics in psycholinguistics: concepts and lexical semantics, language and other specialised cognitive systems (mathematical ability, vision, face recognition, etc.), sentence production and processing, language disorders, language acquisition and second language learning.


152900069: General Linguistics or equivalent standard.  Please see the course outline for the standard of knowledge of linguistics required for this course.  The course convenor may be contacted for further information.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This module examines the cognitive mechanisms which underlie the acquisition and function of Human Language concentrating on theories and research methods concerned with the acquisition and learning of languages. On completion of this module students should have grasp of the main issues relating to these fields of research and some of the methodologies adopted to investigate the issues.  They should also be able to critically evaluate empirical evidence and arguments closely related to the topics dealt in the module.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Method of assessment

A 15 minute min presentation of a summary and critique of an empirical research paper  (9%); a 4000-word essay on an approved topic to be submitted on day 4, week 1, term 3 (91%).

Suggested reading

  • Guo, et al. (2009). Crosslinguistic approaches to the psychology of language: Research in the tradition of Dan Isaac Slobin. New York:Psychology Press.
  • Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct. New York: Harper Prennial Modern Classics.
  • Steinberg, D. D. & Sciarini, N. V. (2006). An introduction to psycholinguistics. Second edition. Harlow: UK: Pearson Education Limited. Warren, P. (2013). Introducing psycholoinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Recent published Journal articles on the topics pertinent to the course. 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules