AUTHOR: Field, John TITLE: Psycholinguistics SUBTITLE: The Key Concepts SERIES: Routledge Key Guides YEAR: 2004 PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Sonja Folker, Faculty of Technology, University of Bielefeld
[For a review of "Psycholinguistics: A Resource Book for Students", also by John Field, see http://linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-2820.html --Eds.]
"Psycholinguistics: The key concepts" by John Field, offers a succinct though comprehensive A-Z survey of the major issues, terms, and theories in psycholinguistics, following the concept of the Routledge Key Guides series. It is a reference book written for undergraduate or graduate students at the Master's level in language, linguistics, and psychology looking for an introduction to the key concepts in this field of linguistics. Its clear structure and language avoiding technical terms makes it just as suitable for all interested non-specialist readers. It can also prove useful to prepare introductory courses in psycholinguistics or to provide theoretical background knowledge to first and second language teachers.
While there are a number of textbooks and introductions to psycholinguistics, Field rightly holds that they are mostly aimed at Master's students or require a considerable degree of prior knowledge in psychology. An exception to this is the textbook by Rickheit, Sichelschmidt and Strohner (2002). Unfortunately, it is only published in German; it displays a high degree of accessibility most other introductions lack. The book under review successfully sticks to the policy of not taking for granted any previous knowledge of the field. A dictionary, however, cannot be meant to replace a textbook; it rather serves as an additional reference when reading a textbook or attending an introductory course. Therefore a (reasonably short) review of the standard textbooks as to the degree of expertise they require might provide a valuable orientation for the students and might be a useful supplementary paragraph to add to the introduction of this book.
Apart from the introduction, the book has an encyclopedic format; it contains 358 entries with helpful cross references providing additional knowledge and orientation. Each entry includes a short definition of - or a brief introduction to - the respective concept followed by a more detailed explanation including controversial and related issues. For example the entry on "Phonological development: Production" offers a concise definition of productive phonological development. Then the development of phonological production is described in greater detail, including phonetically transcribed examples and an overview of the debate on the existence of a universal order of phoneme acquisition. The entry is cross-referenced to "Phonological development: Perception".
Bold face in the entry text indicates references to further entries in the book, in the cited example to "Babbling". This cross-reference to terms used in the explanations makes the book self-contained, that is, no further reference books have to be consulted. As the example illustrates, the book deals with the most common and basic terminology that is used in the study of psycholinguistics; however, it also clarifies "everyday terms" whose common understanding deviates from their use in psycholinguistics (like for example "Noise").
What I find highly useful are the suggestions for further reading given for most part of the entries. The choice of these reading recommendations surely was one of the most difficult the author had to make. His decision to limit himself to literature easily accessible clearly is in the interest of undergraduate students. Moreover, the recommendations are restricted to 1-5 per entry (2-3 in most cases). Instead of referring to entire books, Field often explicitly mentions specific chapters that should be read. Considering that one of the most difficult tasks of a student is to make a choice in the wealth of literature existent on each of the concepts, the "feasibility" of this restricted choice will encourage students to actually check for further information.
Many recommendations refer to handbooks; this is suitable for the purpose of students, but might fall short of academic interest. Important primary sources, however, are mentioned in the course of the text and can be looked up in the complete reference list at the end of the book. Most of the reading recommendations refer to literature from the 90s; for some entries, more up-to-date recommendations might have been chosen, as this generally has the advantage of including references to previously published literature.
While I do not feel entitled to comment on the author's expert choice apart from this very general remark, I'd however like to illustrate my point by giving an example for an entry closely related to my current field of research: for the entry on "Eye-movements" Field recommends Just & Carpenter (1987) and Rayner and Pollatsek (1989), undeniably two of the standard works on the psychology of reading. A reference to the handbook on "Eye tracking methodology: theory and practice" by Duchowski (2003) might have been a possible alternative covering the basic phenomena as well as biological and technical background of this methodology. In addition to this, the review article by Rayner (1998) could provide information on more recent empirical findings.
As already mentioned, the entries cover a wide range of key aspects in psycholinguistics. The main fields of interest are language processing, first language acquisition, central concepts of second language acquisition as well as language disorders. At the end of the book the reader finds a full index that proves especially helpful if the notion that is looked up has not received an entry of its own.
In a nutshell, "Psycholinguistics: The key concepts" is indeed a valuable resource book, that lives up to its promise to put psycholinguistics within the grasp of novices.
Duchowski, A. T. (2003). Eye tracking methodology: theory and practice. London et al., Springer.
Rayner, K. (1998). Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychological Bulletin 124, 372-422.
Rickheit, G., Sichelschmidt, L. and Strohner, H. (2002). Psycholinguistik: die Wissenschaft vom sprachlichen Verhalten und Erleben. Tübingen, Stauffenburg-Verlag.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sonja Folker is a Ph.D. student in linguistics at the Faculty of Technology at the University of Bielefeld, Germany and member of the graduate program "Task-oriented Communication." She has a Master's degree in Romance languages, biology and philosophy as well as the corresponding teaching certificates. She teaches courses on academic writing for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Her research interests include human cognition, especially language, learning and memory processes. Methodologically, she concentrates on doing eye movement studies to explore the integration of linguistic and pictorial information.