Memory and Language in Bilinguals

Project: Research project

Project Details


Description (provided by applicant): The goals of this research are to contribute to understanding the relationship between language and memory, both as general cognitive phenomena and as relevant to bilinguals in particular. Two experiments explore the effect of language on cognitive performance to establish whether language-dependent memory can be observed in semantic retrieval. The phenomenon of language-dependent memory suggests that memories become more accessible when the linguistic environment at retrieval matches the linguistic environment at encoding. Speakers of more than one language are particularly likely to experience language dependence, since their memories are likely to be encoded in different linguistic environments. It is predicted that bilinguals' memory performance will be improved by a match between language of encoding and language of retrieval, and that bilinguals' cognitive performance will benefit from reinstating the linguistic environment present at the time of encoding. The present project extends previous research on language dependent retrieval of episodic memories to language-dependent retrieval of real-world knowledge acquired in everyday life (Experiment 1) and to language-dependent retrieval of information learned in academic settings (Experiment 2). Understanding how language influences memory accessibility may have direct implications for assessment and testing of bilinguals in educational, psychological, medical, and legal settings. Moreover, studying the effects of language on memory in bilinguals may contribute to a general understanding of higher-level cognitive processes, such as how the interaction between language and memory manifests itself, the magnitude of the effects, and what may be some underlying mechanisms.
Effective start/end date2/1/051/31/08


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (5 R03 HD046952-02)


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