What is Psycho-linguistics?

Psycho-linguistics is the science that studies the psychological processes of language comprehension and production. These processes can be understood by putting together the theories emerged from different studies conducted so far, even if they were made from completely opposite points of view.

Today, psycho-linguistics admits that these theories have brought important contributions to the field, so it does not discard any of them, but, starting from them, formulates a new explanation in regard to how language is acquired.

This interpretation claims that people acquire the language through their need to communicate, but also with the aid of the human innate aptitudes for learning the language, the interaction with the linguistic environment, and the creative and dynamic process that occurs during the stages of psycho-evolutive development.

Finally, we thought it would be appropriate to mention the most relevant aspects of the theories described above, in order to see what were the exact contributions of each theory and how the present interpretation was obtained.

In the following, we present a table that synthesizes the theories that have tried to explain the psychological processes of  language comprehension and production.

Theory Representative Main thesis


Recognized the importance of the environment in the development of language

Skinner B.F. Analyzed the way children learn. It is based on the behaviorist principles, which see the child as a passive receiver of information, who learns by imitating their parents’ speech, and reinforcement.


Human aptitudes in the acquisition of language

Chomsky N. This theory is the opposite of the previous one, which focuses on the acquirement of language. It claims that the child has innate knowledge (inherent to his/her mind) about the universal principles that govern language.


The importance of the interaction with the linguistic environment

Roeper T. and E. Williams Also claims that children have innate knowledge, but puts the student in a continuous relationship with his community, which is set to influence it from a linguistic point of view.


The relation between transformation of the processes of thinking and the evolution of language.


Piaget J. and  Geneva School Studies the mechanisms of the mind and claims that as soon as the child develops his sensor and motor intelligence, he can acquire the language. Rejects the principles of the innate theory, and considers that the only thing inherited is the intelligence.



Social interaction and the student’s need to communicate.



The importance of the role of the adult.

* Vygotsky L.S.

* Bruner J.

Both currents analyze the role of social interaction in the development of language.

“Language is (…) a means of communication with external form and function, that progressively acquires an internal, personal function, until it becomes completely internal and is transformed into “thinking”…”

Language is acquired and is influenced by the social function.

Supports the theory of inherited predisposition of the subject which enables him to acquire the language, as well as the need of support and reinforcement from the adults (instructional scaffolding).



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