A Psycholinguistic Approach to Mental Lexicon

explanatory Essay
2047 words
2047 words


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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Prarthana,S. & Prema, K. (2012). Role of Semantics in the Organization of Mental Lexicon. Language in India.259-277.

Richards, J. C., Platt, J., & Plat, H. (2000). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied linguistics. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

Roux, p. (2013).Words in the Mind: Exploring the Relationship between Word Association and Lexical Development. Journal of Polyglossia, pp. 80-91.

Singleton, D. (1999). Exploring the Second Language Mental Lexicon (p. 178, 236). London: Cambridge University Press.

Wolter. B. (2001). Comparing the L1 and L2 Mental Lexicon. Studies in Second Language Acquisition. 23:41-69.

Zhang, C. (2009). Mental Lexicon and English Vocabulary Teaching. US-China Foreign Language, 3-7.

Zhang, S. (2004). The CLE Mental Lexicon: Nature and Developmental Pattern. Kaifeng: Henan press.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that studies on mental lexicon indicate that learners of first language have better semantic and syntactic knowledge, which makes word retention and retrieval easier.
  • Explains that the study of the mental lexicon deals with how words are acquired, comprehended, organized, stored, retrieved, and produced.
  • Explains that the focus on phonological mental memory was first initiated by paul meara (1980). mear conducted a study on native speakers and second language learners’ lexical abilities.
  • Explains that linguistics and psycholinguists believed that the quick production of speech indicates that words are organized, and retrieved very easily.
  • Explains that the representation of the mental lexicon is based on syntagmatic relations between words and group of words.
  • Introduces the mental lexicon in aichison, bonin, fitzpatrick, o'gorman, prarthana, and prema.
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