Psychology of Language


Spring 2004


Class Meeting: Monday: 9:30 - 12:00

                         NQ 107


Instructor:   Dr. Thomas Holtgraves

                    NQ 129




                    Office hours: MW 3:00-4:00

Readings: The required Whitney text will provide a basic overview of many linguistic and psycholinguistic principles, concepts, and theories. The additional reserve readings will provide a more in-depth look at some of this material. The required Holtgraves text will provide a more social orientation to language production and comprehension.

Required Texts

 Whitney, Paul. (1998). The Psychology of Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Co.

 Holtgraves, T. (2001). Language use as social action: Social psychology and language use. Mahwah,  NJ:  Erlbaum.

Reserve Readings: Copies of additional required and recommended readings (see list below) are on 2 hr. reserve at Bracken library (some may be available electronically).

Lecture Notes: Lecture overheads are available

Course Description: This course will involve a detailed examination of the psychological and social processes involved in the production and comprehension of language. Topics include sentence and discourse comprehension and memory, pragmatics, conversation structure, representation and meaning, language, thought and culture, and language acquisition. Much of this research falls within the domain of cognitive psychology (more specifically, psycholinguistics). However, the orientation and topics covered in this course are quite broad and will include the writings of linguists, philosophers, anthropologists, communication researchers, and others. The emphasis in this course will be on empirical, and especially experimental, approaches to language use. This is a thriving and increasingly popular area of research, and a topic that is central to many fundamental issues in psychology (e.g., the nature of mind, the relationship between thought and language; the linguistic underpinnings of social interaction, etc.).

Disability Adaptations and Accommodations: If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. My office location and hours are listed above.

Statement of Academic Honesty: For learning to be meaningful and worthwhile it must be based on honesty. Learning that is not fundamentally honest is incomplete, systematically flawed and potentially damaging to all of us. Simply put: if you cheat, you don't learn. Academic dishonesty, or cheating, damages students and universities because it adds suspicion and resentment to academic competition, and it distorts the meaning of grades. Ball State University has taken a very definitive position on academic dishonest, as laid out in Section VIII.B of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Academic dishonest, as defined in the Code, includes, but is not limited to, using unauthorized aids during a test, submitting another's work as your own, and submitting previously presented work as newly executed work without my knowledge or authorization. I am committed to assigning grades based on students' honest efforts on exams and other class assignments. All suspected incidents of academic dishonesty will be pursed through the established channels.

Exams: There will be two exams. Exams will cover all assigned readings and material discussed in class.

Paper and class report: A term paper is required and will be due the last class period. The paper should be 10-15 pages (typed - double spaced). The topic is open but it must deal with some aspect of the psychology of language (broadly defined) and it must be approved by me. A short summary outline of the paper should be submitted to me by the fourth class period. In general, the paper should be a review and critique of some recognizable research area in the psychology of language. Finally, each student will be required to make a class presentation (15 minutes) based on their paper.

Class Format: A lecture-discussion format will be followed. It is expected that students will have read the assigned material before it is discussed in class. Fifteen percent of the final grade will be based on class participation (exclusive of the paper presentation).


Grading: There are 330 possible points distributed as follows:


Exam 1: 100

Exam 2: 100

Paper/presentation: 100

Class participation: 30

Course Outline

Topic 1. Introduction

Course overview, course mechanics, introductory comments

Recommended: Miller (1990)

Topic 2. Nature of Language

Language subsystems, language disciplines, language design features

Required: Whitney chapter 1

                Hocket, C. F (1977)

                Seyfarth & Cheney (1992)

Topic 3. Basic Linguistic Principles


Language structure, Phrase Structure and Transformational Grammar, Lexical Constraints, Government and Binding Theory


Required: Whitney chapter 2


Recommended: Smith

Topic 4. Basic Cognitive Principles: Meaning, Semantics and Representation


Meaning, Lexical Access, Lexical Ambiguity


Required: Whitney chapter 3

                Reeves, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff (1998)


Recommended: Miller (1999)


Topic 5. Basic Cognitive Principles: Perspective Taking

Reference, Common Ground, Mutual Knowledge, Conversational Interaction as Context


Required: Holtgraves chapter 5

                Keysar & Henly (2002)

Topic 6. Language and Thought

Whorfian Hypothesis, Language Use, Implicit Causality, Pragmatics


Required  Whitney chapter 4

                Holtgraves chapter 6


Recommended: Hardin & Banaji (1993)


Topic 7. Sentence Comprehension and Memory

Lexical Ambiguity, Syntactic Ambiguity, Late Closure, Minimal Attachment, Good Enough Processing


Required: Whitney 7 (91-106)

                Carpenter, Miyake, & Just (204-222)

                Ferreira, Bailey & Ferraro (2002)


Recommended: Mitchell (1994)

                        Vigliocco & Hartsuiker (2002)

                        Gordon, Hendrick, & Levine (2002)

                        Crocker (1999)

                        Chater & Christiansen (1999)

Topic 8. Discourse Comprehension and Memory

Coherence (Local and Global), Inferences (Required and Optional), Levels of Representation


Required: Whitney Chapter 8

                Graesser, Millis, & Zwaan (1997)

Recommended: Kintsch (1998)

                        Schmalhofer, McDaniel, & Keefe (2002)

                        Gernsbacher & Foertsch (1999)


Topic 9. Pragmatics: Conversational Implicature and Speech Acts

Speech Act Theory, Indirect Speech Acts, Conversational Implicature


Required: Whitney chapter 9

                Holtgraves chapter 2


Recommended: Levinson (1983) chapter 3

                        Gibbs & Beitel (1995)

Topic 10. Pragmatics: Conversational Structure

Politeness, Face Management, Conversation Analysis, Discourse Analysis


Required: Holtgraves chapter 3-4


Recommended: Levinson (1983) chapter 6


Topic 11. Language Acquisition

Lexical Acquisition, Syntactic Acquisition


Required: Whitney chapters 10-11


Topic 12. Evolutionary and Biological Approaches


Required: Whitney chapter 12

                Hauser, M., Chomsky, N., & Fitch, T. (2002) and commentary

                Wade (2003)

                Beeman & Chiarello (1998)


Recommended: Gardner & Gardner (2 chapters)

                        Motluk (2001)

Reserve Readings

Beeman, M. J., & Chiarell, C. (1998). Complementary right- and left-hemisphere language comprehension. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 2-8.

Carpenter, P. A., Miyake, A., & Just, M. A. (1995). Language comprehension: sentence and discourse processing. Annual Review of Psychology, 46, 91-121.

Chater, N., & Christiansin, M. H. (1999). Connectionism and natural language processing. In S. Garrod & M. Pickering (Eds.), Language processing (pp. 233-180). East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.

Crocker, M. (1999). Mechanisms for sentence processing. In S. Garrod & M. Pickering (Eds.), Language processing (pp. 191-232). East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.

Ferreira, F., Bailey, K., & Ferraro, V. (2002). Good-enough representation in language comprehension. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 11-14.

Gardner, R. A., & Gardner, B. T. (1989). A cross-fostering laboratory. In R. A. Gardner, B. T. Gardner, & T. E. Van Cantfort (Eds.), Teaching sign language to chimpanzees (pp. 1-28). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Gardner, B. T., & Gardner, R. A. (1989). A test of communication. In R. A. Gardner, B. T. Gardner, & T. E. Van Cantfort (Eds.), Teaching sign language to chimpanzees (pp. 181-197). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Gernsbacher, M. A., & Foertsch, J. A. (1999). Three models of discourse comprehension. In S. Garrod & M. Pickering (Eds.), Language processing (pp. 283-300). East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press

Gibbs, R. W. Jr., & Beitel, D (1995). What proverb understanding reveals about how people think. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 133-154.

Gordon, P., Hendrick, R., & Levine, W. (2002). Memory load interference in syntactic processing. Psychological Science, 13, 425-430.

Graesser, A. C., Millis, K., & Zwaan, R. A. (1997). Discourse comprehension. Annual Review of Psychology, 48, 163-190.

Hardin, C., & Banaji, M. R. (1993). The influence of language on thought. Social Cognition, 11, 277-309.

Hauser, M., Chomsky, N., & Fitch, T. (2002). The faculty of language: What it is, who has it, and how did it evolve? Science, 298, 1569-1579

Hocket, C. F. (1977). Logical considerations in the study of animal communication. In Hocket, C. F. (Ed.), The view from language (pp.124-162). Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Keysar, B., & Henly, N. (2002). Speaker's overestimation of their effectiveness. Psychologial Science, 13, 207-212.

Kintsch, W. (1998). Comprehension: A paradigm for cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Levinson, S. (1983). Chapter 3. In Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Levinson, S. (1983). Chapter 6. In Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Motluk, A. (2001). Read my mind. New Scientist, 169, 22-27.

Miller, G. A. (1990). The place of language in a scientific psychology. Psychological Science, 1, 7-14.

Miller, G. A. (1999). On knowing a word. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 1-19.

Mitchell, D. C. (1994). Sentence parsing. In M. A. Gernsbacher (Ed.), Handbook of psycholinguistic research (pp. 375-409). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Reeves, L. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. (1998). Words and meaning: From primitives to complex organization. In J. B. Gleason & N. B. Ratner (Eds.), Psycholinguistics (2nd edition; pp 157 - 226). Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace.

Schmalhofer, F., McDaniel, M., & Keefe, D. (2002). A unified model for predictive and bridging inferences. Discourse Processes, 33, 105-132.

Seyfarth, R. M., & Cheney, D. L. (1992). Meaning and mind in monkeys. Scientific American, December, 122-128.

Vigliocco, G., & Hartsuiker, R. J. (2002). The interplay of meaning, sound, and syntax in sentence production. Psychological Bulletin, 442-472.

Wade, N. (2003). Early voices: The leap to language. New York Times, July 15, 2003.

Sample Term Paper Topics

Mediated communication; language use on the internet.

The relationship between gestures and language use. (McNeil; Krauss)

Cross-cultural pragmatics

Language use and social psychological experimentation (e.g., how conversational principles affect the manner in which people respond to self-report items).

Language and thought - Syntactic effects

Language and thought - Lexical effects

Language and thought - Pragmatic effects

Experimental studies of second language acquisition

Biological bases of language - Neuropathology

Biological bases of language - Intrahemispheric localization