1st Edition

Plain Language A Psycholinguistic Approach

By Stefano Rastelli Copyright 2025
    246 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    246 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Plain Language: A Psycholinguistic Approach employs principles from the field of psycholinguistics to explore factors that make a sentence or text easy or difficult to process by the cognitive mechanisms that support language processing, and describes how levels of difficulty might function within bureaucratic power structures.

    Drawing from experimental data on readability, Rastelli employs a metaphor of three ‘ghost’ readers in the mind that exist and interact with each other: the syntactic reader (the one searching for the structure), the statistical reader (the one driven by previous experiences), and finally the pragmatic reader (the one searching for aboutness). The final chapter concerns a novel psycholinguistic experiment showing that complexly written texts may prevent adult citizens with average literacy skills from accessing important information related to their health, work, and right to representation, thereby drawing a line between the psycholinguistics of language comprehension and the maintenance of existing power structures.

    Written in plain language itself, this book is designed to be easily understandable from an undergraduate level and makes for fascinating reading for all students and researchers in linguistics and psycholinguistics, as well as supplementary reading for students of sociolinguistics and related modules. Students, researchers and interested general readers will develop an understanding that knowing how the mind reads and understands language can help stakeholders to ensure equal access to information and democratic processes.


    Chapter 1: Basic Notions

    Chapter 2: A Closer Look at Plain Language: Motivations, Name, Origins and Rules

    Chapter 3: Plain Language Myths

    Chapter 4: Meaning of ‘Plain’ in Language Research

    Chapter 5: A Little Difficult is Better

    Chapter 6: Language Usability

    Chapter 7: Psycholinguistics and Plain Language, Part One: Language Processing

    Chapter 8: Psycholinguistics and Plain Language, Part Two: The Data

    Chapter 9: Psycholinguistics and Plain Language, Part Three: A Reader’s Memory

    Chapter 10: The Syntactic Reader

    Chapter 11: The Statistical Reader

    Chapter 12: The Pragmatic Reader

    Chapter 13: Making Spoken Language Plain. A Timed Crossmodal Forced-Choice Experiment 

    Chapter 14: Conclusion. Fifteen Points of Attention






    Stefano Rastelli teaches Psycholinguistics at the University of Pavia (Italy) where he directs the Laboratorio di Linguistica e Glottodidattica Sperimentale (LLEGS). He regularly publishes experimental research on syntax, second language acquisition and statistical learning.