The Psychology of Language

Dr Bert Vaux

PsychologyHow does our language affect our thinking? Why does visual and other non-auditory information affect what we (think we) hear? How is it that split-brain patients can name objects without being consciously aware of seeing them, or be able to write but not name them? What can language disorders, Alzheimer’s Disease, dyslexia, speech errors, and tip of the tongue states tell us about regular linguistic processing and production? This course addresses these and other linguistic mysteries as part of a larger examination of how the mind constructs and deconstructs language.

This course is aimed at: Students from all disciplinary backgrounds. If you’re interested in this course, you might also like to consider taking Varieties of English, or How to be an anthropologist: A critical exploration of the fieldwork method.

Pre-requisite knowledge required: None required.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills: Development of analytical skills, exposure to a wide range of experimental methods.


Harley, Trevor. 2008. The psychology of language, third edition. New York: Psychology Press.

Pinker, Steven. 2007. The Language Instinct. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. (Available in many different versions beginning in 1994, all of which are acceptable for this course.)

Additional articles are assigned for each lecture; these are available as pdf files that can be accessed by clicking on the links on the course website.

Readings must be completed before the lecture for which they are listed.


1 Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

1 Final Exam: 50%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)