Seminar paper from the year 2000 in the subject American Studies - Linguistics, grade: 1,3, University of Duisburg-Essen, course: Psycholinguistics, 17 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: How do children learn to speak? And why? Do all children start to use language at some age? Or do they need a certain 'trigger'? Is our ability to use a language innate? Or are we conditioned to use language as a response to our environment? There are many other questions to be raised, for example about the function of a language, the process of acquisition, or the meaning of the term 'language' as such. Psycholinguistics tries to answer at least some of these questions. 'Psycholinguistics is the name given to the study of the psychological processes involved in language. Psycholinguists study understanding, producing, and remembering language. [...][They are] concerned with listening, reading, speaking, writing, and memory for language [...] [and] interested in how we acquire language, and the way in which it interacts with other psychological systems.' (Harley, 1995: p.1) Thus, psycholinguistics is concerned with '(...) the correlation between linguistic behaviour and psychological processes thought to underlie that behaviour (...)' (Crystal, 1992: p. 291). Due to its interdisciplinary nature, psycholinguistics has been influenced both by linguistic and psychological findings and theories. One of the main psychological schools which have contributed to psycholinguistic theories is behaviourism. Although early behaviourism was not concerned with language as such, but rather with the observation of any (animal or human) behaviour, Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990) later focussed his interest on verbal behaviour. He employed behaviouristic methods and tried to describe the acquisition process as a complex form of conditioning. One of his aims was to apply his findings in the development of new teaching methods. This paper is designed to give a brief overview on behaviouristic key terms and ideas. Due to its importance for psycholinguistic aspects, the main focus will be on Skinner's behaviourism, although the 'roots' of behaviourism will also be mentioned shortly. The concluding part of this paper deals with Skinner's theories on verbal behaviour and the controversy they aroused. Some of the most common critical remarks concerning Skinner's ideas will be presented and commented upon.