Course: Psycholinguistics in the field

Times: 9:30am - 1pm

Dates: Monday and Tuesday, 2-3 December 2019

Instructor: Dr Rebecca Defina, The University of Melbourne

Registration: Please register here for Summer School 2019


The majority of psycholinguistic research is carried out in lab contexts within Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010). Moreover, studies of English – a typologically rather weird language – are greatly over-represented (Majid & Levinson, 2010). While many recognise a need for greater representativeness in psycholinguistic research, actually carrying out this work comes with both practical and theoretical challenges.

The goal of the course is to develop an understanding of the challenges and benefits field research can bring to psycholinguistic research and a method to follow to develop your own field-based study designs. The course draws on and relates to other areas of field-based linguistic investigation and could be extended beyond the realm of psycholinguistics per se.

Background knowledge

A good general grounding in either linguistics or psychology would be helpful for this course. You do not need specific knowledge of psycholinguistics or field research.


Please contact Rebecca Defina with answers to the following questions:

1. Is your background in linguistics, psychology, or something else?
2. Are you more interested in semantics, syntax, or phonology?
3. Do you do field research? If so, where?
4. Are you planning to do your own field-based psycholinguistic research? If so, what is your research question? Or general topic?

In November, participants will be assigned to small groups and sent one or two articles to read in preparation for discussion during the course.


Day 1
We will review examples of field-based psycholinguistic research, including studies of concept categorisation and syntactic processing. Discussion will focus on the challenges inherent to these studies and the ways in which the authors address these challenges. (This includes small group discussion of readings to be distributed in November.)

Day 2
This session will focus on how to design a field-based psycholinguistic study. Starting with the questions you need to answer before you begin designing your study, through to working individually or in small groups to prepare full draft designs. We will work from research questions provided by participants and instructors.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University