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PSYC327 Psychology of Language

The psychological processes underlying language, the development of language in children, and the use of language in the broader social context.

From the moment we are born, we enter the world of language. Within a short time, our ability to use language becomes inextricably linked with what it means to be human. The objective of this paper is to introduce you to how language works, particularly at the interface of linguistics and psychology.

Paper title Psychology of Language
Paper code PSYC327
Subject Psychology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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PSYC 210 and PSYC 211 and PSYC 212
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
May not be credited with PSYC321 passed in 2012 or 2013.

With departmental approval, a student who has achieved a grade of at least B+ in each of PSYC 210 and 212 may take no more than one of PSYC 313-328 concurrently with PSYC 211.

With departmental approval, a student who has achieved a grade of at least B+ in PSYC 211 may take no more than one of PSYC 313-328 concurrently with PSYC 210 and 212.


Teaching staff

Lecturer: Dr Jane Carroll

Paper Structure

This paper examines the phenomenon of human language from the perspective of psychological science. The first part of the paper examines how children develop language and the psychological processes underlying our ability to speak and understand language. The second part of the paper explores selected topics in the study of language, such as bilingualism, atypical development and the role of culture in linguistic socialisation.


  • Three question 'essays' (300-word paragraph) 15%
  • One test 15%
  • One research proposal 20%
  • Final examination 50%

A student who completes fewer than 50% of the assignments in a paper will not meet terms and may not sit the final examination in that paper.

Part I - Language acquisition: This section will focus mainly on speech and language development during the first five years of life. We will introduce you to how children acquire their speech sound system, vocabulary, syntactic and pragmatic knowledge. Alongside this descriptive information you will be introduced to the main theories that are posited to explain how infants, toddlers and children acquire these linguistic and communicative abilities.

Topics include:

  • Infant segmentation of speech and language
  • Infant speech production
  • Word learning and syntactic development
  • Pragmatic development
  • Oral language and literacy
  • Bilingualism

Part II - Language and society: In this part of the paper we will cover topics that examine how we use and understand language within the contexts of society and culture.

Topics include:

  • Culture and language
  • Language and thought

Part III - Adult speech perception and production: mental processes involved in language use: In this section we will introduce you to models of human language that are used to understand the mental processes involved in language processing and production in adults. In this section, we will first consider how the brain is organised for language and then work through some classic models of speech production and interpretation, and the studies that provide evidence for these models.

Teaching Arrangements
One 2-hour lecture and one 1-hour lecture per week.
Three tutorials to be advised.
Selected journal articles.
Selected readings on Library closed reserve.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will demonstrate in-depth understanding of concepts and theories central to the psychology of language.

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system