Wikipedia isnt really a help where psycholingustics belongs to, psychology or linguistics. Its a too interdisciplinary field, but to me fundamental to understand origin of languages and thats of course a, the major question in linguistics. But im just a enthusiast.

Maybe it is mainly explored in psychology faculties. But as a scientist myself, i dont see how you want explore origin and evolution of languages without analysing how we perceive (see/hear) language, how our ears and eyes are limited in perception,memorizing and remembering of frequencies and micro-shapes. Thats like saying, we can explore music by analysing all note-sheets ever written or understand PSE by studying chemical compounds instead of doing atom physics. This would be unscientific and missing the big picture, maybe missing the main factors. Of course you have to start with psychoacoustics, phonetics. Maybe you learn more about origin of human language by studying differences to other animals (singing whales, birds) than analysing the fine nuances of human spoken languages.

My 2 cents

5 Answers 5


Vote this answer up to say "psycholinguistics is on-topic here".

Vote this answer down to say "psycholinguistics is off-topic here".

  • 2
    I believe it's not that straightforward. For example, I think language acquisition questions are ok, but I'm not too sure about the tip of the tongue question.
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 6:05
  • @LouisRhys: Feel free to ask a new question asking which bits of psycholinguistics would be on/off topic specifically. Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 6:30
  • @louis +1 as baby you learn to read words letter by letter, but my question imho shows this drastically changes, you seem to need only the first letter of a morphem or word with one syllable. I dont see how this can be uninteresting. Also as many are skeptical about Speed Reading, for me it seems a good proof we dont have to read sentences morphem by morphem
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:13
  • I can't see if this is 8+ and 0- or 16+ and 8- or what. Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 18:06
  • @MatthewMartin It's +9 and -1 at the moment. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 22:41
  • Now it's +10 and -2.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 8, 2011 at 10:44
  • 1
    What a clever way to organize voting on a site which doesn't provide a voting mechanism! +1, @hippietrail :)
    – kamil-s
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 14:46

Like I stated in the cross-site duplicate question and the tip-of-the-tongue question (the comments under the question) and maybe in other places, I vote on topic. Of course, not just "all in!", but considering the boundaries, since it's not a pure field.

Which (roughly) means:

  • Enough or more related to Psychology? Off topic.
  • Enough or more related to Linguistics? On topic.
  • 1
    I just hope you dont mean: this questions belongs to psychology.SE, this to linguistics.SE and there can be no overlap. There is no language/scientific field without any overlap/redundancy. Actually you find several lectures in a chemistry/physics faculty on the same topic, but with a slightly different view covering the same phenomena. Same here. This question fits both .SE's imho, interesting would be the view from different experts and diff. scientific methods. I know the SE rule of not duplicating questions, even on diff. SE sites, but i dont think that this very wise in this case.
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 22:05
  • 1
    imho you have to differ between same question and same phenomenon but different scientific view/perspective on diff. SE sites
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 22:07
  • Yes I can understand overlapping. But if the subject treated leans more on the other half, you obviously don't want it to see here. Do you understand what I mean? That question about TOT was fine, because it was more related to linguistics than other fields, although it was related to other fields as well... I don't know if I explained well what I mean.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 22:09
  • ux.stackexchange.com/questions/12100/… Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 22:12
  • @alen i watched the TOT question, and IMHO this is clearly cognitive psychology, similar to the deja-vu phenomenon, memorizing. I dont see how you can draw conclusions from this concerning linguistics. My question is a phenomenon directly related to redundancy/structure of language, recognizing of morphems to be able to read a word...I think you should make it clearer in the FAQ. In my question on Capitalization you also say it is off-topic? Despite 5 upvotes. So i think the german philologists have some serious scientific pros & cons to prescribe Capitalization of every noun. Its no dicing.
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:09
  • @Hauser It's not just "cognitive psychology", otherwise it wouldn't belong to psycholinguistics, but just to cognitive psychology. It's not the same as deja vu, which has (typically) nothing to do with language. The FAQ is just basic now, we are still deciding on it. I don't know about your question, but I'm not sure it belongs to this site. You're asking if reading with capitalized nouns is easier, and that depends on many factors, not just linguistics ones.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:21
  • @Hauser: reading, as interesting as it is, is not linguistics. People don't speak or listen in letters. I feel 'reading' is -totally- outside of linguistics. There might be linguistic aspects that one might apply to reading studies, but the 'scrambled letters' question did not do that (maybe it could have, but happened not to).
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:42
  • @alen the question was edited to a shorter title, i asked if there is a link between syntax-highlighting, Capitalization and comprehension of a sentence. If you remember a SINGLE word/picture/sound has no direct linguistic factor, its cognition. Lets stop here, i dont think we find a compromise and only argue abot defintions/categories and you and mitch seem to be in minority, so i dont see much sense in further hairsplitting. OK?
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:51
  • 1
    @Hauser I don't think we're in minority, actually. The tip-of-the-tongue is related to language and the brain's role in this, deja vu isn't, it's just brain. And I'm not arguing with anyone, the meta site and the comments are here for this reason, in order to discuss about the site.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:54
  • @mitch ok, thats your view. I was asking for role of this phenomenon, thats the whole question. Lets stop here, we will find no compromise as to me the question how we perceive/read/hear is MAYBE crucial for why we build languages that way. I just dont want to exclude it. And you and alen seem to be in a minority. I interpret the upvotes in hippies poll as most agree with my reasoning in the question. Categorizing of single overlapping questions in such a interdiscplinary field with similar methods seems not really useful to me and my understanding of science. I cant really discuss this. OK?
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 14:01
  • @Hauser I just wanted to say that I actually answered your question about the texts with mixed letters.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 14:03
  • @alen deja vu is just a example of a very seldom occuring memorizing error similar to TOT. Its interesting of course, but you cannot really base linguistic research and conclusions on such a extreme case. How can mis-memorizing a single word be important for understanding language and sentence building? Sry, but i dont get your point. If you think how our brain saves single words is on-topic, than it gets tricky to exclude alot cognitive psychology questions form here imho (PS sry meant arguing in sense of discussion, no offense :)
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 14:13
  • @Hauser Not all about it is related to us, ok, but how brain works with language is absolutely interesting for linguists. And most of all, it's linguistics. Like I said, we must be careful because it's not a pure field, but excluding it totally is not the solution.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 14:17
  • @Hauser: re: hippietrails poll, I'm totally for psycholinguistics too. I disagree that the particular reading questions are psycholinguistics. re deja vu, I don't know what you mean by this. Normally it means 'a feeling of having experienced the current experience already' which is inarguably non-linguistic. re the whole thing: it's interesting, as long as the question passes other things (it's constructive, not localized, supportable), I'm OK with accepting 'reading' questions (except they are likely to be off-topic anyway unless the cross-language aspect is integral to the question).
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 14:36
  • @mitch trying to make a compromise: IMHO a crucial criterion should be, if a question concerns the phenomenology/methodology of a typical linguistic researcher. And then i have to say TOT deals mainly with fMRI, neuroimaging, mental lexicon, information storage in human brain. My questions deal with phenomenons appearing directly in language. You dont need a neuroscience degree or understanding of flaws of fMRI neuroimaging to understand the phenomenon at all. Thats normally the border line between different branches in science. Phenomenology/Methodology
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 18:07

Here's a heuristic: is it taught regularly in some common(ish) class in linguistics departments? If yes, then on topic. (Note: I don't think a no answer means off topic at all, this heuristic only works one way.) By this measure practically everything in psychology of language comes in to some degree. For instance, tip of the tongue phenomena is regularly taught in psycholinguistics classes (in ling departments). When I was an undergrad there was a course in the linguistics department that even focused on speech errors and related issues such as TOT, though this kind of course is less widespread.

You can come up with similar heuristics involving what is being researched in linguistics departments, too, as @Hauser suggests above in a comment.

Many answers and comments here seem to be trying to take a more theory-based approach -- does the question have bearing on linguistic theory? This is a reasonable question to ask in all of these cases, but I don't think it is useful as a way of deciding what is appropriate for this site. Someone above (actually it is @Hauser too), for instance, suggests that results of TOT research don't have bearing on linguistics (which I take to mean, linguistic theory). Whether this is right and why is an extremely hard question to resolve for cases like this and by no means has an obvious or settled answer, I suspect if you ask 10 psycholinguists you will get 10 different answers. It is bound up in the issue of whether you can study the grammar without studying its implementation (cf. competence vs. performance). Seeing what practicing linguists actually do, rather than what is true (which in many cases we [linguists] don't know and may not for years if ever), seems much more practical to me.

  • Also, just as a matter of PR (or something like that), I think most linguists these days would be rather startled at the prospect of psycholinguists issues not belonging in linguistics -- the use of experimental methodologies and trying to make deeper connections to cognition is very much on the rise in the field.
    – kgr
    Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 17:31
  • By the way, the @(username) doesn't work in answers, I guess. He will know you answered anyway, since you answered his question. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 22:42

Although whether psycholinguistics is on- or off-topic is an important question to ask, it is a separate question from whether a particular question that happens to fall in the domain of psycholinguistics is on- or off-topic.

It's like if I'm participating in a scavenger hunt where the goal is to obtain some food item containing chocolate, and I know that a lot of people make chili using chocolate, I can't just walk into a restaurant and order a bowl of chili and expect it to fulfill the requirements of the scavenger hunt without knowing its ingredients.

I think one reason your question about reading scrambled words caused so much controversy is that it was a giant bowl of chili and some people weren't convinced that it was made with chocolate! Simply mentioning the word psycholinguistic (as in, "Is psycholinguistic research done on this topic?") didn't make it an incontrovertibly on-topic question because so much of the rest of the question was concerned with reading and how our eyes and brains process printed words with spaces between them. Usually if you ask a linguist about language perception, she will assume you are talking about aural perception (unless you are talking about sign language). By wording the main question the way you did, linking printed words and sentences (not the central concern of linguists) to pictures (also not the central concern of linguists), you all but bypassed the facet of this reading phenomenon that is relevant for linguistic research! (By the way, morphemes are not printed entities, although some orthographies use units that correspond to morphemes. English orthography is not one of them.)

I'm still new to this site myself, so I'd be interested to hear feedback from people in the form of comments, but it seems to me that rather than getting flagged as off-topic the reading question could be salvaged by being reworded. For example, a linguist might ask, "What role do morpheme boundaries play in the phenomenon described above?" or "How language-dependent is this phenomenon? Do languages whose orthographies demarcate word boundaries with spaces fare better than other languages in this regard?" or "Has any typological research been done on this phenomenon? Is there a correlation between ease of reading scrambled words and where on the synthetic-isolating scale a language falls?" The two answers provided (to date) for the question as it was originally worded actually speak more directly to these other versions of the question, bringing it more into the realm of linguistics.

  • +1 good points and you are right, as im just hobby interested in linguistics i couldnt formulate the question in better way, more appealing to user here firm with linguistic terminology. But the phenomenon was too interesting to me to not ask for its name/role :) Then someone of the experts should just suggest a reformulation or add this technical terms/tags instead of long debate. But i doubt only aural perception plays a role for psycholinguistics. Look this question linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/756/…
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 16:47
  • I agree that "experts" editing the question, retagging, and suggesting reformulations is the way to go. I think that the long run of comments is just a sign of a SE site in its infancy! I would have edited the question and/or retagged it myself but I don't have enough reputation points to do that yet, and it seemed like adding a comment about reformulating the question was going to get lost in the noise of the ongoing debate! Hopefully as the site gains legitimacy over time problems like this will resolve themselves. Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 19:46
  • Oh, and regarding perception, you are absolutely correct that visual perception plays a role in psycholinguistic research; I was simply saying that the term perception will usually be taken to mean aural perception unless you qualify it, and when you hear a linguist talk about a perceptual experiment you can usually assume she means one in which subjects were asked to listen to stimuli. Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 19:55

Disclaimer: I am not a psycholinguist, even remotely.

I study at a department of Computational Linguistics. Psycholinguistics is one of the major sub-groups of this department. Another such department at a different university has a nice overview of what they are working at: http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/lili/forschung/ag_fachber/psycholinguistik/.

Whether it is allowed on this site or not, psycholinguistics is, at times, deeply tied to linguistics.

Having said that, I see very few psycholinguists on this site. One possible reason is that they don't feel that this site addresses their current academic interests in any way, despite the fact that many of them have a background in pure linguistics. Unless a few psycholinguists become active members of this site, discussions on psycholinguistics will degenerate into pointless speculation by laypeople.

I am aware that I have not given a "yes" or "no" answer.

Speaking for myself, "psycholinguistics" is in my "Ignored Tags" list.

  • Your answer made me think of phenomenological questions where you dont need alot neuropsychological background or methodology knowledge (fMRi, brain models, theory of mind), but can do easy psychological experiments to see how e.g. our mental lexicon is structured phenomenologicaly See this question linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/756/…
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 16:59
  • I think even the non-psycholinguists are able to answer here and find good links to linguistic papers. This may attract more pure psycholinguists, somehow we have to make start Its anyway more expected on SE to give good links and explanations and then vote a answer vs. e.g. reddit voting of self-claimed experts
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 17:00
  • @Hauser: I felt completely lost when I read the question you linked to. Nothing personal... this is how psycholinguistics usually makes me feel. I do not find myself capable of either agreeing with or disagreeing with your comments. In any case, I had already +1'd hippietrail's voting answer.
    – prash Mod
    Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 20:47

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