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Psycholinguistic Approaches to Vocabulary

  1. Gretchen Sunderman,
  2. Alicia Campbell

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0971

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

Sunderman, G. and Campbell, A. 2012. Psycholinguistic Approaches to Vocabulary. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


A psycholinguistic approach to vocabulary is aimed at understanding how individuals store words in their mental dictionary, how they retrieve those words, and how their level of proficiency in each language affects lexical processing. The cornerstone of psycholinguistic approaches to vocabulary is the use of behavioral methods to measure how quickly (using reaction times in milliseconds) and accurately individuals process language. The nature of the questions and the experimental tasks vary when investigating individuals at beginning stages of bilingualism (i.e., language learners) and more skilled individuals (i.e., proficient bilinguals).


  • psycholinguistics;
  • second language acquisition;
  • vocabulary