Lecturer's Précis - Morton (1964)

"A Preliminary Functional Model for Language Behaviour"

Copyright Notice: This material was written and published in Wales by Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). It forms part of a multifile e-learning resource, and subject only to acknowledging Derek J. Smith's rights under international copyright law to be identified as author may be freely downloaded and printed off in single complete copies solely for the purposes of private study and/or review. Commercial exploitation rights are reserved. The remote hyperlinks have been selected for the academic appropriacy of their contents; they were free of offensive and litigious content when selected, and will be periodically checked to have remained so. Copyright © 2002-2018, Derek J. Smith.


First published online 08:35 BST 1st May 2002, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [2.0 - copyright] 09:00 BST 3rd July 2018.

An earlier version of this material appeared in Smith (1997; Chapter 5). It is repeated here in simplified form and supported with hyperlinks.


Morton (1964)

See firstly the supporting commentary for this material.


Morton's (1964) Pre-Logogen Model: Here is Morton's (1964) model of the modular layout of the cognitive processes involved in language. The central proposition is the mental dictionary (pink box, centre). This contains storage units for all the words in the vocabulary of the person concerned, but four factors may individually or in combination influence the selection of a given word. From left to right across the top of the diagram, these are .....

·         confrontational sensory input of written words, via the visual input pathway.

·         confrontational sensory input of spoken words, via the auditory input pathway.

·         whatever else is (or has recently been) going on in the person's mind, via the sentence context pathway.

  • conscious selection, via the selection mechanism pathway.

The chosen word is then passed down into a short term memory store (bottom) in readiness to be spoken.

Note the bypass arrows (blue, lower left). These allow non-words to be spoken without reference to a pre-existing entry in the mental dictionary (for by definition this contains only known words). However, the true complexity of this bypass processing was not fully explored until the 1980s (see, for example, Ellis and Young, 1988).

If this diagram fails to load automatically, it may be accessed separately at



Redrawn from a black-and-white original in Morton (1964:218). This version Copyright © 2002, Derek J. Smith.




Morton, J. (1964). A preliminary functional model for language behaviour. International Audiology, 3:216-225.

Smith, D.J. (1997). Human Information Processing. Cardiff: UWIC. [ISBN: 1900666081]