What is the difference between neurolinguistics and cognitive linguistics or psycholinguistics?

I am already having trouble understanding the difference between cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics but adding neurolinguistics exponentially increases my confusion.


2 Answers 2


Alex has explained well each concept, but to be easier to understand, when we talk about neurolinguistics in contrast to pyscholinguistics, we are talking about studying language processing in the brain due to brain lesions or degenerative problems.

So, it's common to see aphasia studies in neurolinguistics but acquisition studies in psycholinguistics. Both of them are related, but neuro is more related to losses and psycho, more related to acquisition.

And cognitive linguistics can be also a different theoretical approach, not just a different field of linguistics.

Elisabeth Ahlsén has a good and introductory book about neurolinguistics if you want to know more:

Ahlsén, Elisabeth. "Neurolinguistics." In The Routledge handbook of applied linguistics, pp. 480-491. Routledge, 2011.

  • 1
    What do you mean that cognitive linguistics can also be a different theoretical approach, not just a different field of linguistics? Won't cognitive linguistics be always a subfield of linguistics and at best (worst) an interdisciplinary field of study? What is the difference between neurolinguistics and cognitive linguistics? Sep 2, 2021 at 21:24
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    Well, I can talk about my experience in my master's programme. The cognitive linguistics they had there worked as a theoretical approach, like struturalism, generativism or functionalism. They could study different aspects of language based on this approach. When I studied neurolinguistics I followed a more functionalist approach. Sep 2, 2021 at 22:01
  • To be clear, I think and I studied neurolinguistics as an object of study, and as an object I can study it using works of Chomsky or works of Levelt, for example. It's possible to look to the same thing in different ways and this is my experience with cognitive linguistics, a different and specific view of language. Sep 2, 2021 at 22:05
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    @GeorgeNtoulos take a look at the contents page of a very popular text on cognitive linguistics by Evans edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-cognitive-linguistics.html (space, time, metaphor, lexical classes). Cognitive linguistics is linguistics investigating language structures and phenomena, based on certain theoretical assumptions, whereas neurolinguistics is primarily neuroscience investigating the physiology of language production.
    – Alex B.
    Sep 2, 2021 at 23:07

The difference between neurolinguistics and cognitive linguistics is akin to the difference between the brain and the mind. Neurolinguistics is specifically concerned with how the physical brain is involved with language. While cognitive linguistics is concerned with the cognition of linguistics, how we think about language, how we conceptualise the world.

  • I'm not sure about how psycholinguistics fits in, maybe it bridges the two?
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 2, 2021 at 22:56
  • Cognitive linguistics then is simply meta-linguistics? Cognition of linguistics, how we think about language (is how we thing about the same as what we thing about) would make the answer a definitive yes. But you also said that cognitive linguistics is (also) concerned with how we conceptualise the word and that is far from meta-linguistics. Is cognitive linguistics an interdisciplinary field of study (with epistemology or philosophy of mind)? Sep 2, 2021 at 22:57
  • No not meta-linguistics/meta-language. I meant the cognitive aspects of linguistics. Wikipedia does seem to say that it's used in many different ways however.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 2, 2021 at 23:00

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