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Post by dah_men on Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:42 am


Pre-reading task

1. “Psycholinguistics” is a combined word? Can you say what
it means based on its formation?

2. Anyone can learn a foreign language. Do you agree with
the opinion? Why or why not?

Psycholinguistics is the study of the mental processes
underlying the planning, production,

perception, and comprehension of speech. A principal aim of
modern linguistics, since the

Chomskyan revolution, has been to arrive at an understanding
of the way in which our minds

work, and in this respect it could be argued that
psycholinguistics, with its unique blend of

psychology and linguistics, is the most significant of all
the linguistic branches. Not

surprisingly, because it covers a very large territory, the
boundaries of psycholinguistics are

rather fluid. One important sub-branch is concerned with
psychological constraints on the use

of language (e.g. how memory limitations affect speech
production and comprehension), yet

another with the investigation of speech disorders (clinical
linguistics, aphasiology). All of

these areas have been enriched in recent year by technical
information about language and the

brain (neurolinguistics).

Probably the best developed branch of the subject, however, is
the study of language

acquisition in children, the most important outcome of which
has been the establishment of

stages of acquisition. Recent studies of language
acquisition all suggest that children are tuned

into language from a very early age. Just as important is
the issue of what language is used for,

and how it relates to the child’s emerging sense of self.

One of the hotly debated issues in current psycholinguistic
studies, not unrelated to this

discussion, is the extent to which language activity can be
seen as the responsibility of discrete

language modules in the brain, or as the output of general
cognitive abilities used in thinking

and conceptualizing about anything. Some psycholinguists
argue that syntactic processing, the

way in which we produce and recognize well-formed strings, is
carried out separately from

other processes performed by the brain, whilst others argue
for a more wholistic view of

linguistic and other competences. Much of the debate has
centered on evidence from the study

of language abilities can exist separately from others. Nevertheless,
it is still a large step from

evidence of this kind to the conclusion that language is a
wholly discrete cognitive ability

processed in a series of autonomous stages by autonomous
components. The distinctive way in

which language is interwoven with other human activities
would suggest otherwise.

What is at issue here is the relation between brain and mind.
In popular thought these terms are

often used interchangeably, but it’s important not to
confuse them. The brain is the physical

organ in the skull which controls bodily behavior and
thought, and, like any other organ, its

operations can be observed. The mind, on the other hand, comprises
the mental and emotional

capabilities which make us human. In contrast with the brain,
it’s not a physical organ and not

open to direct observation. Clearly our minds are dependent
on our brains, but no one has yet

managed to correlate their workings in any precise way. In
an earlier age theologians were

exercised with trying to find the exact location of the soul
in the body. Attempting to determine

the boundaries of the mind is proving no lesser task.

Psycholinguistics, however, is only indirectly concerned
with the brain; its principal target is

the human mind. As such it has gained considerably from the
discipline of psychology. Making

an utterance involves selecting the appropriate information
one wishes to share (for whatever

purpose), arranging it in such a way that its topic and
focus are clear and will attract the

attention of our addressee, and performing it successfully. There
are various kinds of mental

knowledge required here, including the conceptualization of
the message, its formulation in

terms of a linguistic structure, and its phonological
processing. At the same time, however, it’s

important to bear in mind that language comprehension is not
solely the preserve of

autonomous linguistic processes. We also rely on non-linguistic
cues from texts, and

knowledge of characters, entities and events not explicitly
mentioned, for a full interpretation.

If an action takes place in a restaurant, for example, the
listener can infer the presence of a

kitchen, even though it may not be explicitly mentioned. This
side of psycholinguistics

connects with discourse analysis and is concerned with how
we make sense of texts. Evidence

suggests that we do so by constructing mental models or
schemas based on our knowledge both

of the world around us and of its representation in language.

Comprehension check

Are the following statements about the text True or False? Say

1. Psycholinguistics is the significant branch of

2. Technical information about neurolinguistics has enriched
some areas of


3. The establishment of stages of acquisition is the most
important outcome of the

study of language acquisition in children.

4. Children can acquire a language from a very early age.

5. According to most psycholinguistics, syntactic processing
occurs separately from

other brain processes.

6. Brain and mind are basically different from each other.

7. Either the mind or the brain makes us human.

8. The principal target of psycholinguistics is both the
human mind and brain.

9. Mental knowledge includes the conceptualization of the
message, its linguistic

structure and its phonological processing.

10. Language comprehension is not only solely the preserve
of autonomous linguistic

processes, but it is also relied on non-linguistic cues from
the texts.


Work in groups of four to discuss the questions.

1. In
what age can a child start learning a foreign language?

2. Which learners may acquire a foreign language better? Children
or adults?


When you write any kind of composition, and especially when
you write an analysis, you

must operate on at least two levels: a general level that
covers the whole topic and a more

specific level that gives parts, or divisions, of the

In the following example, there are two levels: one whole (general)
and two equal parts.


I have set several important future goals for


First, I want to master English in

order to complete my education.

Second, I want to get a good

job so that I can support my family.

General :

Future goals

specific 1 :

English for education

specific 2 :

job for support

In the exercise below, write two sentences to complete each
short text. In your sentences,

name some specific parts of the topic introduced by the
general beginning sentence.

Express your own knowledge and experience in the specifics.


There are several linguistic factors that make it difficult
for a foreign student to learn


First, _____________________________________________________________







Translate the text into the language you prefer


It was America that many of the most important developments
in mid-century linguistics took

place. In many respects these owed much to the concern of
American anthropologists to record

the culture and languages of native Indian tribes, which
were rapidly vanishing before the

concerted power of the white races. The problem, however, was
that no generally agreed

descriptive framework existed to assist scholars in
providing a coherent account of what were

sometimes called “exotic” languages. But in 1933, the linguist,
Leonard Bloomfield, published

a book called Language, in which he outlined a methodology
for the description of any

language. Bloomfield’s approach was rigorously descriptive. It
is sometimes referred to as

descriptive linguistics, occasionally as “structuralist” (in
a slightly different sense than the

Saussurean), and, despite the revolutions that have occurred
in linguistic thought it is still at the

heart of much linguistic practice. For Bloomfield the task
of linguists was to collect data from

native speakers of a language and then to analyze it by
studying he phonological and syntactic

patterns. The concept that all language is patterned was
fundamental to these procedures.

Bloomfield argued that one of the principal ways in which
items are ordered in a language is in

terms of, what are called its immediate constituents. These,
in turn, can be analyzed into further

constituents, and so on, down to those at the ground level
of words, which are the smallest

continents. A sentence is thus conceived of as a hierarchy
of interlocking continents, all of

which can demonstrate their constituency, because they can
be either substituted by similar

constituents, or redistributed to form other sentences.

Descriptive linguistics provided a powerful means of uncovering
some of the surface structures

of language but it ignored two important aspects of language.
First, it was not interested in

meaning, or semantics, partly because it proved too
difficult to analyze the meanings of

constituents in the same descriptive fashion and partly
because it didn’t seem immediately

relevant to providing an account of syntactic structure. Second,
it labored under the illusion that

description alone was sufficient for arriving at a set of
language rules. It was Chomsky who

showed that more important than mere description for the
linguist was explanation. To arrive at

that meant penetrating beyond the output and understanding
the system which produced

English for Philology

Compiled by NGUYEN THI BICH THUY (2003)



Text rearranged by Dr. B.A. NEDDAR

Level of Education : 3rd year LMD
Posts : 63
Join date : 2010-12-20
Age : 29
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