Bilingual Memory

Roberto R. Heredia and Jeffrey M. Brown

Texas A&M International University





To appear In W. C. Ritchie & T. K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of bilingualism (pp. 213-228). Blackwell Publishers.


How do bilinguals represent their languages in memory? Do bilinguals organize their languages in separate or in shared memory stores? In this chapter, we review some of the major theories of how bilinguals organize their two languages in memory. We start by reviewing early theoretical formulations, and then we go on to evaluate current hierarchical models that assume a memory architecture composed of language-specific mental lexicons and a shared conceptual system. Next, we critically evaluate the distributed model of bilingual memory that poses a bilingual memory structure based on word type. We conclude by evaluating current work on bilingual lexical ambiguity that attempts to determine the extent to which bilinguals activate their two languages simultaneously during language retrieval. Our purpose in this chapter is to be critical and provide, where appropriate, both theoretical and methodological alternatives, as well as suggestions to extend bilingual research to other memory and language processing domains. We begin by discussing and evaluating the formulations of Weinreich (1953) and Ervin and Osgood (1954).