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Psychology of Language -



November 2018


Department Introduction


Using language is central to our social and cultural lives. Psychologists and psycholinguists have extensively studied the processes involved in speaking and listening, reading and writing. Most of this work has been done in laboratory contexts, where participants - usually psychology students - carry out rather unusual tasks, such as reading aloud meaningless letter strings. We also carry out such lab research, but an important goal is to understand how speaking, listening, reading and writing take place in real life contexts, for instance in informal conversations or in class room teaching. Another important goal is to understand how people with varied educational and cultural backgrounds (ranging from highly literate academics to illiterate adults) differ in their use of language. Insights about language use in everyday contexts can have important practical implications, for instance for the improvement of language testing and training programs.  

A guiding theoretical principle is that there is a small set of basic cognitive components that, in different combinations, account for all of the ways language is used in everyday and laboratory contexts. Our task therefore is to identify these basic cognitive components and generate theories that explain how they are combined when people use language (e.g. Meyer & McQueen, in press).

To conduct this work, we use an eclectic mix of methods, including psycholinguistic experiments, individual differences studies, neurobiological methods and computational modelling. An important mission of the department is to develop new methods and analysis tools and make them available to the research community.  

Broad questions we are currently interested in include the following: 

(1) Which basic cognitive and linguistic components are there? What is the most parsimonious way of describing the cognitive system underlying language?

(2) How are the processing systems involved in the production and comprehension of language related, and how do they differ?

(3) How do human listeners ‘distill’ a communicative message from such a transitory acoustic speech signal?

(4) How do speakers and listeners generate larger linguistic units (e.g. phrases) from smaller ones (e.g. words)?

(5) How can we represent grammatical knowledge and grammatical encoding processes in a strongly incremental, lexically driven system? Is it useful to distinguish between a lexicon and a grammar?

(6) Which cognitive processes contribute most to individual differences in language skills?

(7) How do interlocutors affect each other in conversation?

(8) How does culture (especially the use of written language) shape cognition and language?


Research Clusters


The Cultural Brain

Falk Huettig, Senior Investigator

The Representation and Computation of Structure (RepCom) Group

Andrea Martin, Senior Investigator

The Double-Act: Speaking and Listening

Suzanne Jongman

The TEMPoral Organization of Speech (TEMPOS) Group

Hans Rutger Bosker, NWO

Learning, Memory, and Adaptation

Alastair Smith, Laurel Brehm

Individual Differences in Language Skills

Florian Hintz, NWO Language In Interaction



Last checked 2018-11-22 by Antje Meyer
Psychology of Language

Street address

Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:  +31-24-3521336
Fax:      +31-24-3521213


Director: Antje Meyer