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Careers in Psycholinguistics


Psycholinguists form an important part of research teams investigating medical issues relating to language. Autism research is one such area that is rapidly evolving and utilizing psycholinguistics along with other methods of inquiry. Autism is a communicative and neurological disorder that is increasingly prevalent amongst children worldwide. Psycholinguists in the research sector seek to understand the external and internal sources of language impairment in autistic individuals in an effort to find a cure or prevention for the disorder. Psycholinguists are also involved in research concerning brain damage that leads to speech impairment or the loss of memory that results in temporary or permanent communication deficiencies.


Psycholinguists with degrees or certification in special education assist public and private schools in educating children who have difficulty communicating. Because they have an understanding of all aspects of language acquisition, comprehension and usage, psycholinguists make dynamic teachers for such children or valuable assets to the evaluation and design of plans to educate such children. Psycholinguists with advanced degrees can work at the postsecondary level, teaching courses in the field to majors of linguistics, neuroscience and biochemistry as well as those interested in education, social work or various social sciences. These professorships can be held at community colleges, traditional four-year colleges and universities, or distance universities that offer online degrees. Some psycholinguists work in the field of teaching English as a second language to foreigners living or working in the United States.


Psycholinguists may work as psychologists to help people who are struggling with communication to overcome and mitigate psychological barriers to communication. With additional schooling, psycholinguists may work as speech language pathologists, who are therapists working with patients' speech. Speech language pathologists work in rehabilitation centers, schools and hospitals with children and adults whose speech has been affected by an accident, illness or disorder. Occupational therapy is another field psycholinguistics work in, helping people with memory problems or brain injuries regain skills or cope with difficulties in communicating.


Some psycholinguists are employed in the field of linguistic anthropology, which is the study of how humans have developed to produce language. They research social discourse and conversations between people throughout different cultures and parts of the world, studying the similarities and differences between peoples of different geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds in hopes of theorizing on overarching phenomena found throughout humankind. They may also seek to reconstruct dead languages through historical research, or work to recreate an original language from which all other languages may have descended.


Psycholinguistics also pursue research in the field of sociology, which is the study of the behavior and characteristics of human social groups. Psycholinguists involved in sociological research seek to understand the ways language is acquired, utilized and understood by various groups of people. Like anthropologists, they typically utilize samples of everyday speech and discourse to study populations and social groups. They also may focus on the ways that language has developed or continues to develop in a specific social group, such as a dialectical region or socioeconomic sector of a population.


Faith Davies has been writing professionally since 1996, contributing to various websites. She holds an LAH insurance license in the state of Pennsylvania and has experience as a bank branch manager and lending officer. Davies graduated cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in art history.