Chapters 2-5 of “Psycholinguistics” by Thomas Scovel

Chapter 2

In this chapter, Thomas Scovel discusses the way in which children acquire their mother tongue. At first, the author notes that crying can be viewed as the precursor of language and speech (Scovel 8). As a rule, it is a response to the discomfort that infants can experience. However, at the same time, they learn to use their lungs and vocal cords (Scovel 9). Furthermore, in many cases, crying can be viewed as a means of attracting the attention of other people.

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In turn, cooing sounds are supposed to express satisfaction. At the babbling stage, children start to use various phonemes, and many of these phonemes cannot be found in their mother tongue (Scovel 10). Later, they retain only the phonemes that they hear on a regular basis. Furthermore, this author speaks about the first words that children utter. Much attention should be paid to such a concept as idiomorphs or the words that infants can invent.

Additionally, this scholar focuses on the development of grammar. In particular, he says that infants can use single-word sentences that differ in terms of intonation, which helps listeners determine whether they ask a question or demand something (Scovel 13). Furthermore, the author speaks about the use of two-word sentences. It should be kept in mind that infants do not simply rotate the words. As a rule, they understand that some of them should be placed at the beginning or at the end. Certainly, these sentences are incomplete, but they usually follow a certain pattern.

Overall, some psycholinguists believe that human beings have some innate knowledge of the language (Scovel 19). Yet, this assumption still requires additional verification. Additionally, Thomas Scovel pays attention to children’s creativity. For instance, they can combine several words and merge them into hybrids that are not used in the natural language. In this way, they experiment with methods of word-formation.

Furthermore, they create word forms that violate the rules of grammar; for instance, one can mention such verbs as “gone” or “eaten”(Scovel 19). These examples indicate that children tend to make predictions about the patterns that govern the language. Apart from that, the author urges the readers not to overlook the individual differences in language acquisition. For instance, he focuses on prodigies. Some of them are able to use complex grammatical structures much earlier than their peers. In many cases, linguists pay close attention to the ability of children to form open-ended questions.

Moreover, there are various criteria which enable researchers to identify the stages of language acquisition. Some of them attach importance to the MLUs or mean length of utterances (Scovel 24). Psycholinguistic studies also indicate that the acquisition of the second language bears some resemblance to the way in which children learn their mother tongue. However, adults have to adjust to a completely new system of communication; this is why their task is more challenging. These are the main questions that Thomas Scovel examines in this chapter.

Chapter 3

In this part of the book, the author examines the peculiarities of speech production. At first, he introduces the linear model of this process. It consists of such stages as conceptualization, formulation, articulation, and self-monitoring (Scovel 27). Yet, the author argues that this sequential of the description of utterance formation may not be the only approach to explaining this process. In particular, some researchers assume that speech production can include simultaneous mental processes that are aimed at creating utterances. First of all, it is important to speak about syntactic and imagistic thinking.

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The first mode of thought gives rise to the sequence of phonemes, syllables, words, or sentences that form an utterance (Scovel 27). In turn, the imagistic mode of thinking is related to the development of gestures people use to supplement their speech. Additionally, the scholar examines the articulation of utterances which can be described as the linear process. Much attention is paid to the so-called slips of the tongue, which can show how speech is produced. In particular, they indicate that a person can misapply the rules of word formation and forget about possible exceptions.

For instance, some people can utter the word “derival” instead of derivation (Scovel 36). Thomas Scovel also focuses on the formation of high-level utterances. This process can be analyzed from various standpoints such as sociolinguistic and pragmatic. Linguists may focus on the way people’s lexical or syntactic choices are affected by external circumstances. Additionally, they can examine the meaning that they assign to words, phrases, or sentences.

Moreover, Thomas Scovel discusses various aspects of articulation. The author examines the functioning of the larynx that contains the vocal cords. He mentions that the evolutionary modification of this organ is critical for the human ability to produce speech (Scovel 42). The scholar emphasizes the idea that the production of sounds involves the interaction of many organs such as larynx, lungs, and lips. One should also remember that the articulation of a sound strongly depends on its immediate environment; in other words, other sounds. At present, researchers study the way in which the brain governs neuromuscular movements.

Finally, this chapter throws light on such a process as self-monitoring. Overall, speakers usually pay close attention to their utterances and identify some of those parts of an utterance that do not comply with grammatical or phonetic rules (Scovel 46). This process is of great interest to psychologists and linguists who study the acquisition of the second language. Native speakers are able to detect possible deviances in their utterances, while ESL students may not be aware of the mistakes that they make. To a great extent, the production of speech can be regarded as the feedback loop, which ensures that each utterance is accurate (Scovel 47).

When discussing native speakers, psycho-linguists speak about the intuitive knowledge of the language which enables people to correct their oral or written utterances. These are the main questions that the writer examines in this chapter.

Chapter 4

This chapter illustrates the way in which people understand written or oral communication. Thomas Scovel argues that this comprehension cannot be described as a linear process; in other words, people do not move from one linguistic level to another. One can assume that people understand the meaning of a word when they accurately identify their phonemes and syllables. However, there are some empirical results that contradict this assumption.

For example, it is possible to speak about the phoneme restoration effect (Scovel 51). This effect suggests that people’s perception of sounds depends on their expectations. Furthermore, in many cases, listeners need to hear the entire utterance in order to understand the meaning of a separate word. More importantly, people have to rely on their background knowledge to comprehend sounds. Much attention should be paid to some characteristics of sounds such as voice-onset time.

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It is critical for distinguishing similar sounds (Scovel 52). Experimental results indicate that people have an innate ability to focus on these distinctions between the sounds. In fact, they perceive these distinctions in as binary groups; this process is called categorical perception (Scovel 54). Yet, this ability is affected by the linguistic environment in which a person grows up. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about bilingual families.

Additionally, Thomas Scovel discusses such a notion as parallel distributed processing which implies that simultaneous mental processes are involved in the comprehension of words. According to this model, the exposure to a word activates a lexical detection device or a logogen. Moreover, many of these logogens can be activated simultaneously. Furthermore, the author examines such a term as spreading activation networks (Scovel 58). It means that while remembering a particular word, a person identifies a set of similar words (Scovel 58). Under such circumstances, a person tries to trace lexical relations between such words.

Moreover, Thomas Scovel discusses the derivational model of complexity that can throw light on the way in which sentences are understood. This framework incorporates several assumptions. According to this model, a person’s comprehension depends on the number of elements within a sentence (Scovel 60). In part, this tendency can be explained by the limits of working memory. However, Scovel also discusses experimental results that do not comply with this theory. This chapter also throws light on such a notion as transition networks. It is used to describe the predictions that people make about the meaning of sentences.

Finally, this author discusses the way in which a person comprehends texts. Again, it is possible to say that people use their background knowledge while interpreting the meaning of written or oral messages. This argument is supported by empirical findings suggesting that a person can better understand the meaning of a text if this text has a title. Moreover, background knowledge is also important for retaining information. These are the main details that should be considered.

Chapter 5

In this chapter, Thomas Scovel examines various causes of language loss. At first, the author mentions speech disorders caused by brain damage. In order to explain these health problems, the scholar examines scientific discoveries which enabled researchers to advance conjectures about the functioning of the brain. Much attention should be paid to Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas which can be viewed as of importance speech centres (Scovel 73).

Additionally, these parts of the brain are critical for the comprehension of oral and written language. For example, one can mention that Wernicke’s aphasia impairs the ability of a person to comprehend words, phrases, or sentences (Scovel 74). In turn, Broca’s aphasia affects various elements of the speech production process, such as conceptualization, articulation, or self-monitoring. As a rule, the sentences that they utter lack of subjects or predicates.

Additionally, there are long pauses between words. This is one of the details that should be considered. Moreover, surgery can also lead to speech impairments. Hemispherectomy is one of such procedures that can deprive a person of his/her ability to produce speech (Scovel 76). On the whole, the studies of neurologists indicate that certain parts of the brain are responsible for specific linguistic processes. Nevertheless, there are important complexities that cannot be overlooked. In particular, researchers point out that there are secondary speech centres that can partly supplement Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. This is one of the details that can be singled out.

Furthermore, Thomas Scovel discusses theories which are supposed to explain language disorders that have not been caused by brain damage. The author discusses the Johnson theory according to which speech impairments can be attributed to traumatic or stressful events of childhood (Scovel 81). This approach is based on the principles of behaviourism. This theory has often been applied to stuttering that can be caused by great fear of something.

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Nevertheless, this theory is not suitable for explaining other language disorders. Researchers believe that in some cases, the brain of a person does not have a primary language centre. However, this disorder is innate. Additionally, the author mentions that very often, the causes of a speech disorder have not been accurately identified. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about autism (Scovel, 83). It is possible that multiple factors can contribute to autism. This is one of the arguments that can be put forward.

Additionally, language loss can be explained by inherited disorders such as Down’s syndrome which affects the process of articulation. Moreover, one should keep in mind that speech production can be impaired due to ageing. This process is closely related to the loss of short-term memory (Scovel 86). It is critical to remember about Alzheimer’s disease, which influences emotions, cognitive processes, and the ability to produce speech. Overall, language loss is one of the questions that attract the attention of neurologists and medical workers. The study of these questions requires knowledge of different disciplines.

Works Cited

Scovel, Thomas. Psycholinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

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StudyCorgi. "Chapters 2-5 of "Psycholinguistics" by Thomas Scovel." May 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Chapters 2-5 of "Psycholinguistics" by Thomas Scovel." May 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Chapters 2-5 of "Psycholinguistics" by Thomas Scovel'. 7 May.

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