The relationship between vocabulary and short-term memory measures in monolingual and bilingual speakers

Margarita Kaushanskaya*, Henrike K. Blumenfeld, Viorica Marian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Previous studies have indicated that bilingualism may influence the efficiency of lexical access in adults. The goals of this research were (1) to compare bilingual and monolingual adults on their native-language vocabulary performance, and (2) to examine the relationship between short-term memory skills and vocabulary performance in monolinguals and bilinguals. In Experiment 1, English-speaking monolingual adults and simultaneous English-Spanish bilingual adults were administered measures of receptive English vocabulary and of phonological short-term memory. In Experiment 2, monolingual adults were compared to sequential English-Spanish bilinguals, and were administered the same measures as in Experiment 1, as well as a measure of expressive English vocabulary. Analyses revealed comparable levels of performance on the vocabulary and the short-term memory measures in the monolingual and the bilingual groups across both experiments. There was a stronger effect of digit-span in the bilingual group than in the monolingual group, with high-span bilinguals outperforming low-span bilinguals on vocabulary measures. Findings indicate that bilingual speakers may rely on short-term memory resources to support word retrieval in their native language more than monolingual speakers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-425
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • sequential bilinguals
  • short-term memory
  • simultaneous bilinguals
  • vocabulary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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