Topics in Psycholinguistics

The details
Language and Linguistics
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
21 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA Q15012 Psycholinguistics,
MPHDQ15048 Psycholinguistics,
PHD Q15048 Psycholinguistics,
MLINQA15 English Language and Lingistics (Including Placement Year),
MLINQA16 English Language and Linguistics (Including Year Abroad),
MLINQQ14 English Language and Linguistics

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 module 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.

Because this module may be the first look into the study of language processing or cognitive psychology for students, a focus on research methods and paradigms available in psycholinguistics will also be introduced.

Module aims

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

Module learning outcomes

On completion of the module, students will be able to:
1. understand and assess current scientific debates psycholinguistics
2. summarise and present empirical results clearly and accurately;
3. critically evaluate theoretical approaches and research methods used in sentence processing research
4. understand and appreciate the relationship between linguistic theory and language processing.
5. present ideas in a structured and coherent way, using appropriate style and terminology, and demonstrating clarity, precision, accuracy and originality.

Module information

Example syllabus:
1 – Introduction to sentence processing (LL)
2 – Incremental models (the Sausage Machine) (LL)
3 – The Garden Path model (LL)
4 – Constraint-based models (LL)
5 – Depedency Locality Theory (LL)
6 – Processing long-distance dependencies (LL)
7 – Anaphora and reference (CDL)
8 – The role of working memory (CDL)
9 – Individual differences (CDL)
10 – Developmental aspects of sentence processing (LL)

Learning and teaching methods

This course consists of 10 weekly 2-hour lectures.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Oral Presentation    30% 
Coursework   Essay     70% 

Additional coursework information


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 Laurel Lawyer, email: l.lawyer@essex.ac.uk.
Laurel Lawyer & Claire Delle Luche
4.340; l.lawyer@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Ian Cunnings
University of Reading
Associate Professor in Psycholinguistics
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 18 (90%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Language and Linguistics

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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