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A Psycholinguistic Approach to Mental Lexicon

Introduction

The study of the mental lexicon deals with how words are acquired, comprehended, organized, stored, retrieved, and produces. The term “mental lexicon” is used interchangeably with what some scholars refer to as “internal lexicon” (Bonin, 2004). It involves the different processes and activations done in the brain in order to store the words and form an internal memory which functions as a mental dictionary. Psychologist and linguists who are concerned with this study believe that words are stored in relation to their phonological, semantic, syntactic and even orthographical features.

Early studies in this field were established by the end of the 1960s. The major focus of the studies was on the comprehension and production of the words. Most of the studies were oriented to psychology. The introduction of this concept into linguistics shifted the attention to the phonological, semantic, and syntactic representations in the mind. Aitchison (1994) described mental lexicon as the permanent human dictionary in which words and their meanings are stored in the brain. On the other hand, Richards (2000) described mental lexicon as the organized mental representations of the concepts and knowledge which are related to the words. There are three scopes of word knowledge; phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic.

I. Phonological Knowledge

The focus on the phonological mental memory was first initiated by Paul Meara (1980). He argued that the organization of words in memory depend on the phonological knowledge of the words in second language acquisition. However, in first language acquisition the memory depends on the semantic knowledge. Mear (1980) conducted a study on lexical performance in fir...

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