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Psych-Cognition of Language

Updated on June 26, 2010

Psych-Cognition of Language


            Language is a form of communication that is done to convey feelings and thoughts or ideas. This language can be spoken in a variety of methods from verbal, to sign language to body language. In any language, there is a list of words that is associated with a particular subject and this group of words is known as a lexicon. A great example of this lexicon is the term “free will” which can be explained like ‘I did it of my own free will’.  So language and lexicon go together because of the lexical memory of words or language. This relates then to cognitive psychology because the frequency of lexical decisions in word processing in the cognitive mind. (Willingham, 2007) (Dale 2004)

          Language as we know it is more difficult to define because of the linguistics of the language. But before we can understand it we must first evaluating the key features of language. These keys features are deemed the critical parts of language and they are: communicative - that is the speech between two individuals, arbitrary is the relationship between language and their meanings, structured - is the term that is used to describe the way in which you phrase a sentence, generative - is the unlimitless basic words that are used to express yourself and dynamic - is the term used to describe the ever changing English language. Each of these keys holds their own significant place in language no matter what the language is. These definitions matter because each part of the key takes into account the understanding of how we speak and relay messages of thoughts and ideas. (Willingham, 2007) (Dale, 2004)

       People on a daily basis relay their thoughts and ideas in very different ways. Some use

 gestures or just a simple one or two word response while others use their full vocabulary to

express detailed thoughts or actions with some being very articulate with the English language.

 So for some the levels of language are understood and applied. These four key levels of

 Language structure and processing within cognitive psychology are:

1)      Phonemes - phonetics which is the study how speech sounds are produced. These phonemes such as an a thatcan be used in different ways like using the word back and baby. Each word is said differently but the a does double duty in this case. This is not the only letter in the alphabet that does this double duty.

2)      Words - are the phonemes that fit together to produce the some 600,000 words in the English language. While much of the English language may make sense to us here in the United States; this same idea in foreign languages such as bdat is not allowed in the United States but used elsewhere in the world.     

3)      Sentences are the grammatical arrangements of words that help us construct thoughts when trying to speak or write.   

4)      Text is when one uses a group of related sentences to form a paragraph that explains a subject.  

Speech usage is typically associated with ones age, or education or even ones status in

 life. Some of the many theories have been tested through the years by various

 psychologists or philosophers. One imparticular individual was B.F. Skinner. Skinner

 had done some of these tests with his theories on behaviorism. Skinner believed that

 these principles or features of language could account for how small children would

 learn their language. Furthermore, psychologists have claimed that Skinner did not

 appreciate what language is so it was important that future generations make provisions

 to secure and preserve all of the language. (Weismer, Thordardottir, 2002) (Willingham, 2007)   

        When we analyze the role of language processing in its cognitive aspects, we must first

 remember that cognitive psychology is the study of learning. This learning involves and

 encompasses perceptions, reasoning, thinking and decision making. With these processes one

 must take into account the conscious and the unconscious mental activities. For one to learn it is

 a necessity that one understands the concepts of language to allow one to relate to the world

 around them is not always an easy task. If one cannot understand how the structure of the

 language works then one cannot comprehend the sounds such as the phonemes nor the words

 that makeup the language. Without the proper understanding one cannot understand the

 semantics of the language therefore one cannot speak and put things into proper context to relay

 those perceptions, reasoning`s and decision making processes. If one understands the structures

 within the language then one can use the context to move forward to the various levels that one

 must take to mature and grow as an individual. From here it is easy to see without knowledge

 and understanding of the structures one cannot mature and mentally come to terms with all those

 things that influence and change who one is and who they will become. (Willingham, 2007) (Dale, 2004)

             Conclusion to this language and cognitive psychology phenomenon is that as new levels of cognitive psychology are reached and understood so should the levels of the English language. If our language had not changed and developed then mankind would have not developed and became a civilized species. Like cognitive psychology there are limits to the behavioral methodology so there must too be limits in the English language of what are proper and accepted methods for the language. Language and cognitive psychology really do go hand in hand because both deal with memory and thoughts with an emphasis on the mental processes to think and inform those around us.  (Anderson, 2004) (Weismer, Thordardottir, 2002)  










Anderson, John, R., (2004) Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications. (Sixth Edition) Published

       by Worth Publishers, Copyright Worth Publishing.


Dale, Rick, (2004) Cognitive and Behavioral Approaches to Language Acquisition: Conceptual and Empirical Intersections, The Behavioral Analyst Today, Vol 6, Issue 4.


Weismer, Susan, E, Thordardottir, Elin T., (2002) Cognition and Language, Disorders of

      Language Development, pp 21- 37



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