Sentence Processing

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
14 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA Q15012 Psycholinguistics,
MPHDQ15048 Psycholinguistics,
PHD Q15048 Psycholinguistics

Module description

Understanding spoken or written language requires the rapid, incremental processing of novel compositional structures. On top of this, we must also integrate multiple sources of additional information, such as the prior discourse, physical context, social information, etc. How are humans able to efficiently accomplish this task? To address this question, this course will consider principles of sentence processing that guide language understanding and features of lexical & sentence structure that facilitate comprehension. Specific topics are likely to include lexical access, reference processing, the role of working memory, the use of visual context, and computational models of language comprehension.

Module aims

This course aims to:
• Provide students with an introduction to current theories of language processing
• Enable students to think critically about research methods used in psycholinguistics
Promote the acquisition of ‘transferable skills’, including data literacy, academic writing, and theoretical argumentation which will be useful beyond the scope of this module.

Module learning outcomes

On completion of the module, students will be able to:

Understand and assess current scientific debates psycholinguistics

Summarise and present empirical results clearly and accurately;

Critically evaluate theoretical approaches and research methods used in sentence processing research

Understand and appreciate the relationship between linguistic theory and language processing.

Present ideas in a structured and coherent way, using appropriate style and terminology, and demonstrating clarity, precision, accuracy and originality.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

This course consists of 10 weekly 2-hour lectures


  • Trueswell, John; Tanenhaus, Michael; Kello, Christopher. (1993) Verb-specific constraints in sentence processing: Separating effects of lexical preference from garden-paths. By: Trueswell, John C., Tanenhaus, Michael K., Kello, Christopher: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. vol. 19 (3)
  • Traxler, Matthew J.; Pickering, Martin J. (1996) 'Plausibility and the Processing of Unbounded Dependencies:An Eye-Tracking Study', in Journal of Memory and Language. vol. 35 (3) , pp.454-475
  • Gordon, Peter C.; Grosz, Barbara J.; Gilliom, Laura A. (1993) 'Pronouns, Names, and the Centering of Attention in Discourse', in Cognitive Science. vol. 17 (3) , pp.311-347
  • Groot, A. M. B. deHagoort, Peter. (no date) Research Methods in Psycholinguistics and the Neurobiology of Language : A Practical Guide: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Trueswell, John C.; Sekerina, Irina; Hill, Nicole M.; Logrip, Marian L. (1999) 'The kindergarten-path effect: studying on-line sentence processing in young children', in Cognition. vol. 73 (2) , pp.89-134
  • Gibson, E. (2006) 'The interaction of top–down and bottom–up statistics in the resolution of syntactic category ambiguity', in Journal of Memory and Language. vol. 54 (3) , pp.363-388
  • Frazier, LynRayner, Keith. (Oct 1, 1987) 'Resolution of Syntactic Category Ambiguities: Eye Movements in Parsing Lexically Ambiguous Sentences', in Journal of Memory and Language. vol. 26 (5)
  • A. D., Baddeley. (2003) 'Working memory: looking back and looking forward.', in Nature Reviews. Neuroscience.
  • Frazier, Lyn; Fodor, Janet Dean. (1978-1) 'The sausage machine: A new two-stage parsing model', in Cognition. vol. 6 (4) , pp.291-325
  • Traxler, Matthew J.; Williams, Rihana S.; Blozis, Shelley A.; Morris, Robin K. (2005) 'Working memory, animacy, and verb class in the processing of relative clauses?', in Journal of Memory and Language. vol. 53 (2) , pp.204-224
  • P. C., Gordon; R, Hendrick; M, Johnson. (2001) Memory interference during language processing.
  • van Gompel, R. P. G. (2013) Sentence processing, Hove: Psychology Press. vol. Current issues in the psychology of language
  • Caplan, D. & Waters, G. (1999) 'Verbal working memory and sentence comprehension', in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. vol. 22 (1) , pp.77-94

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Oral Presentation    25% 
Coursework   2500 Word Essay     75% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Claire Delle Luche, email: c.delleluche@essex.ac.uk.
Claire Delle Luche
4.313, 872113, c.delleluche@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Sarah Ann Liszka
University of Greenwich
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 487 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
487 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.