19 Language Comprehension and Production

Experimental Psychology


  1. Charles Clifton Jr. PhD1,
  2. Antje S. Meyer PhD2,
  3. Lee H. Wurm PhD3,
  4. Rebecca Treiman PhD4

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop204019

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Clifton, C., Meyer, A. S., Wurm, L. H. and Treiman, R. 2012. Language Comprehension and Production . Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 4:VII:19.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Psychology, Amherst, MA

  2. 2

    Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

  3. 3

    Wayne State University, Department of Psychology, Detroit, MI

  4. 4

    Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Psychology, St. Louis, MO

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


To produce and comprehend words and sentences, people use their knowledge of language structure; their knowledge of the situation they are in, including the previous discourse and the local situation; and their cognitive abilities, including memory, attention, and motor control. In this chapter, we explore how competent adult language users bring such knowledge and abilities to bear on the tasks of comprehending spoken and written language and producing spoken language. We emphasize experimental data collected using the tools of cognitive psychology, touching only briefly on language development, disordered language, and the neural basis of language. We also review some of the major theoretical controversies that have occupied the field of psycholinguistics, including the role that linguistic analyses of language structure should play and the debate between modular and interactive views. We also present some of the theoretical positions that have proven successful in guiding our understanding of language processing. We conclude by discussing the need to integrate studies of language comprehension and language production and pointing to emerging research topics.


  • psycholinguistics;
  • auditory word recognition;
  • reading;
  • lexical access;
  • sentence comprehension;
  • word production;
  • sentence production