A Study of Language Dependent Recall in Bilinguals

  • i. Tamkeen Zehra Shah ii. Ubaidullah Qazi iii. Saadia Fatima


The theory of language dependent recall posits that retrieval from memory is facilitated when
the language employed during recall coincides with the language of encoding. This theory
presupposes the linguistic encoding of events. The present research takes a divergent view,
proposing instead that events stored in episodic memory lose their linguistic relevance over
time and are instead encoded in a conceptual language, a Language of Thought (Fodor,
1975). In such case, both the language systems of a bilingual should be able to access this
conceptual base with comparable ease irrespective of the language of encoding. To test this
hypothesis, the research elicited autobiographical accounts from Urdu-English bilingual
subjects who had an equivalent level of proficiency in both languages. Each participant
narrated two anecdotes: one was recounted in the same language as the contextual language
of encoding while the other was related in the bilingual‘s alternate language. The accounts
were analyzed quantitatively as well as qualitatively along five parameters. The findings of
the study are consistent with other renowned theories in linguistics and have implications for
the organization of memory in bilinguals. The study also sheds light on the role of inner
speech in encoding and furthermore provides evidence for the cultural specificity of


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