From thought to action: Producing written language

Brenda Rapp, Markus Damian

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Written language is unlike other language components –phonological, syntactic, semantic, morphological processing- in several important ways. Written language (reading and spelling) is evolutionarily recent, a human invention that entered our repertoire only a few thousand years ago and has become widespread in the global population only in the past 100 years. As a result, unlike spoken language, written language has not had the opportunity to shape the human genome to provide a blueprint for its neural processing. Also, unlike other language skills, reading and spelling typically require explicit instruction –mere exposure during a sensitive period is usually not sufficient. Furthermore, written language acquisition in the individual follows spoken language acquisition and relies on it heavily. Nonetheless, in the literate adult, written language knowledge and processes become neurally and cognitively autonomous components of the language system, interacting in complex ways with the other language components to produce fluent spoken and written language production. Further, not only does spoken language knowledge influence orthographic processing (Bonin, Fayol & Chalard, 2001; Zhang & Damian 2010), but orthographic knowledge may also influence spoken language processing (Damian & Bowers, 2003; Seidenberg & Tanenhaus, 1979). It is hard to imagine a complete understanding of the psycholinguistics of language that does not include written language. Further, although reading has received considerable research attention and interest in psycholinguistics, written language production, unfortunately, has been the “neglected” language modality. This despite the fact that in this age of written electronic communication via email, texting, messaging, etc., increasing numbers of people are processing written language as much or more than spoken language and everywhere we are bombarded by people producing written language by typing into their phones. In this chapter, we review some of the central issues in the psycholinguistics of single word written language production with the goal of providing the reader with an understanding of the cognitive and neural bases of this important component of our language expertise.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Psycholinguistics
EditorsShirley-Ann Rueschemeyer, Gareth Gaskell
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198786825
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2018

Structured keywords

  • Language
  • Cognitive Science


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