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Psychology of Language (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

An examination of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to learn, use, and understand language. We will examine language development and acquisition, language comprehension and production, and language and cognition. Throughout, these topics will be illuminated through reference to their representation in the brain, various pathologies that impede normal language function, and comparative structures in other animals.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge is required.

Content of Course

1. What is psychology and what is language? Introducing the psychology of language. How do we define language and where did it come from?

2. An overview of linguistics (the study of language). How do we describe language? Methodological approaches and an overview of language representation in the brain.

3. How does language develop in children? Examining theories of child language development; developmental language pathologies and insights into language from children.

4. Bilingualism and second language acquisition: early vs. late bilingualism; the critical period in light of bilingualism; bilingualism in the brain.

5. Written vs. spoken language: lexical processing; production and representation; word recognition and comprehension; brain damage and language aphasias.

6. Sentence processing and parsing; comprehension and literacy in the brain; language lateralisation and literacy; reading and speech processing; reading comprehension disorders

7. The Whorfian hypothesis; pidgins and creoles; sign languages and language in the deaf and blind.

8. Models of meaning and conceptual structure; perception and language; social and cognitive approaches and the issue of modularity; pathologies affecting language and cognition.

9. Recap of the major issues throughout the course.

10. Overview of the structure of a language system; new and future directions in the psychology of language.

Teaching method(s)

Combination of lecture and discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of various theories of how people are able to acquire, use, and understand language(s);

  • Understand the experimental and other evidence that support these theories;

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the major experimental techniques for investigating language processing;

  • Apply their knowledge to wider discussion of how people use and understand language and what happens when the system breaks down.


Core Readings


  • Harley, T., 2013. The Psychology of Language: from Data to theory. 4th ed. Hove; New York: Psychology Press.


  • Field, J., 2003. Psycholinguistics: A resource book for students. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Forrester, M.A., 1996. Psychology of language: a critical introduction. London: Sage.

  • Fromkin, V.A., Rodman, R. and Hyams, N., 2006. An Introduction to Language, London: Heinle.

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.