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Review of  Psycholinguistics

Reviewer: Sonja Folker
Book Title: Psycholinguistics
Book Author: John Field
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Issue Number: 16.1216

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Date: Mon, 11 Apr 2005 12:33:57 +0200
From: Sonja Folker
Subject: Psycholinguistics: The Key Concepts

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 --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,


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.

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