Language in Cognitive Psychology


Theorists such as Vygotsky and Whorf have tried to explore the effects of language on cognitive psychology. Similarly, they have tried to explore the significance of human thought on language. Consequently, numerous outcomes have been received with ranging views on their interpretation. Notably, most theorists believe that language plays an important role in enhancing cognitive psychology. In essence, language is a key component of cognitive psychology since it acts as an input/output of one’s thoughts. This paper will define language and lexicon. It will also explore key features, levels, and roles of language in cognitive psychology (Carruthers, 2011, pp. 382-397).

Language and lexicon

Language is an important feature in cognitive psychology. It ensures that information is correctly transmitted from one person to another. Language has been defined variously over the years. However, one definition has been quite consistent. Language can be defined as a scheme that permits one to articulate or converse his/her opinion or perception by writing symbols or else by making a speech. It can also be defined as a distinctive system of communication utilized by a definite language society which is defined by its unique phonological structure. Moreover, this society is also defined by its unique vocabulary as well as grammar.

From the definitions above, it can be observed that the former defines the language in general while the latter defines a language with regards to certain people or cultures. Consequently, it can be observed that language conveys numerous aspects of a community which includes their culture, traditions, and thoughts (Williamson, 2009, p. 1).

On the other hand, the lexicon can be defined as a vocabulary of one’s language. It has been observed through research and interaction that every community tends to have its own language and lexicon. Lexicon tries to define the unique sense of written signs along with verbal communication. In essence, it tries to give the elements of a language meaning in order to enhance understanding of that language. Moreover, it brings to reality the ideas and concepts of any given culture. Therefore, it provides a general guideline for signals, gestures, and sounds in any given culture.

Important characteristics that define the language

Characteristics of any language are unusually many. Some of these include its ability to be used for communicative purposes, vibrancy, duality, systematic structure, and subjective/arbitrary. The first feature which describes its communicative function ensures that information can be transferred from one person to another. In essence, it allows for communication among people. Secondly, language is arbitrary.

This means that language does not have an express association that exists between a word and its meaning. That is, the language flows with regards to information received. For instance, using the word “cup” to mean an object used for holding the liquid is arbitrary; any other word could be used to describe a cup. Thirdly, language is structured. This is an essential feature of language because it ensures that new learners are able to comprehend the structure of any given language (Williamson, 2009, p. 1).

In essence, the arrangement of symbols or words in a language is usually structured. This also ensures that the right or expected meaning is communicated. It should be noted that misplacing a word or symbol in any language structure has the propensity of either losing its meaning or giving a different lexicon. It is, therefore, necessary that language be structured to preserve its meaning. Fourthly, language is vibrant or generic. Language is on many levels which makes it generic. For instance, its secondary level comprises of elements while its primary level comprises of units. Language is dynamic; it changes with time (Aitchison, 2007).

Levels in its arrangement as well as the processing

These include words, texts, sentences, and phonemes. To begin with, phonemes are numerous in human language. However, they are about 46 in English. Phonemes can be defined as perceptible sounds that make up any words. A combination of the same has the propensity of bringing 600,000 different words. This is done by the use of laws of syntax and grammar. In the process, words are used to construct sentences by the use of lexicons.

This enables humans to utilized lexicon to construct a sentence with both phrases and verb phrases. Moreover. Sentences are then utilized to make the next level of language which is known as texts. This is created by following the laws of grammar in sentences. Consequently, language levels are complete when one assembles texts that flow logically based on the laws of the given language.

Language processing depends majorly on the flow of texts. However, it is important to note that the comprehension of language depends largely on perception rather than the arrangement of language. For instance, in performing spectral analysis, it is quite difficult to know when one word should end or another word should begin. In essence, language processing is usually done through the correct use of the rule of word syntax and grammar. This affects the placement of words in sentences as well as phonemes in words (Yule, 2005).

Role of language processing in cognitive psychology

Language processing has raised numerous debates on its influence on cognitive psychology. While some theorists like Whorf have pegged it as chief in determining one’s perception, others have discredited his efforts. Most importantly, opponents of Whorf’s theory have cited a lack of evidence as to their reason for opposing his hypothesis. In essence, while one side believes that language determines how one perceives, the other side believes that language does not affect how one perceives.

Notably, other theorists have also proved that language influences one’s perception to a certain extent. For instance, it has been proven that language tends to affect aspects of perceptions that influence color naming. For instance, people from different cultures and languages tend to mismatch colors. In this regard, it can be observed that language is significant in cognitive psychology since it filters people’s perceptions and thoughts.

Moreover, it is imperative to note that language determines the nouns we associate with specific words (Aitchison, 2007). To this extent, it can be shown that language impacts cognition. Additionally, language tends to influence cognitive development in adolescents as well as children. Therefore, it can be observed that language influences the use of words of description, differentiates color, and helps in cognitive development. However, it must also be noted that it only acts as a preconditioning agent. In this regard, it assists in enhancing child development (cognitive).


Language is an essential feature of human cognitive development. It helps in ensuring smooth communication between one person and another. Language has several key features. It also has four main levels. Language has been associated with cognition for a long time. For instance. Whorf, among others, thought that it defines perception. On the other hand, other theorists thought that it has no influence on cognition. However, research has established that it has an influence on descriptive words, fine colors, and cognitive development. In essence, language plays an essential role in cognition. However, it only acts as a precondition in determining perception.


Aitchison, J. (2007) The Articulate Mammal: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics (5th ed.). London, England: Routledge. Print.

Carruthers, P. (2011). Language in Cognition. Web.

Williamson, G. (2009). Key Properties of Language. Web.

Yule, G. (2005) The Study of Language (3rd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Print.

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