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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 2020-21.


  • 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. The cognitive approach. Basic notions and issues illustrated with reference to visual word recognition
  2. Spoken word recognition
  3. Speech production
  4. Rules and exceptions: reading and morphology
  5. Syntactic processing
  6. Bilingual lexical processing
  7. Bilingual syntactic processing
  8. How meaning and concepts are represented in the brain

Lent Term

9. Discourse processing and inferencing
10. Individual differences in language processing 
11. Declarative and procedural knowledge and language learning
12. Implicit learning and language learning
13. Statistical learning in first and second language acquisition
14. Attention and second language learning
15. Converting explicit knowledge to implicit knowledge: Automaticity in second language acquisition
16. Cognitive determinants of individual differences in second language learning ability.

Preparatory reading: 

Relevant reading lists are available from the Moodle course for this paper (link below). 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 three-hour written examination.

Course Contacts: 
Dr John Williams