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Language familiarity effects in short-term memory: The role of output delay and long-term knowledge

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Four experiments examined the origins of language familiarity effects in bilingual short-term recall. In Experiments 1A and 1B, bilingual adults were tested on serial recall and probed serial recall of words and nonwords in their first and second languages. A first-language advantage was obtained on both measures, indicating that the beneficial effects of language familiarity are not exclusively attributable to lesser output delay during overt recall. In Experiments 2A and 2B, the same group of bilinguals was tested on serial recall and serial recognition of word lists in both languages. Although a sizeable first-language advantage was obtained on the serial recall measure, recognition performance was comparable in the two languages. On the basis of these results it is suggested that language differences in bilingual immediate memory arise in large part as a consequence of the differential availability of language-specific long-term knowledge with which to support retrieval processes in serial recall.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02724980244000198

Affiliations: 1: University of Bristol, Bristol, UK 2: University of Durham, Durham, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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