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Section C

Theoretical and Applied Linguistics


LI16: Psychology of Language Processing and Learning

This paper is available for the academic year 2024-25.


  • provide an overview of psychological research that is relevant to language processing and learning
  • illustrate the range of methodologies used in experimental research
  • cover the most interesting and relevant psychological phenomena that have been revealed through (primarily) experimental research
  • introduce the currently most influential approaches to modelling these phenomena
  • highlight major theoretical issues in the relevant areas of research
  • consider how fundamental principles of learning and memory might be applicable to first and second language learning


  • First and second language processing from a mostly cognitive, but also neurocognitive perspective
  • Basic psychological processes that underlie second language learning

Proposed lecture schedule/topics to be covered:

Michaelmas Term

  1. Visual word recognition

  2. Spoken word recognition

  3. Word meaning and conceptual representation

  4. Rules and exceptions: reading and morphology

  5. Lexical processing in bilinguals

  6. Syntactic processing in bilinguals

  7. Syntactic processing I

  8. Syntactic processing II 

Lent Term

  1. Memory systems and learning I

  2. Memory systems and learning II

  3. Implicit learning of event sequences and artificial grammars

  4. Statistical learning I

  5. Statistical learning II

  6. Implicit natural language learning

  7. Attention

  8. Individual differences in learning

Preparatory reading: 

Relevant reading lists are available from the Moodle course for this paper (link below) with the following recent additions:

Harley, T. A. (2014). The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory. Lawrence Erlbaum. 4th edition.
Rebuschat, P. (Ed.) (2015)  Implicit and Explicit Learning of Languages. John Benjamins.

More specialised reading will be provided to accompany each lecture (mostly downloadable research articles and reviews). 


Teaching and learning: 

You will receive sixteen lectures in total, eight in Michaelmas Term and eight in Lent Term. You will also have eight supervisions, normally three during Michaelmas Term, four in Lent Term and one in Easter Term.

The paper's Moodle site can be found here.


Assessment will be by a 3hr in person written exam.

Course Contacts: 
Dr John Williams