Research on memory for native language (L1) has consistently shown that retention of surface form is inferior to that of gist (e.g., Sachs, 1967). This paper investigates whether the same pattern is found in memory for non-native language (L2). We apply a model of bilingual word processing to more complex linguistic structures and predict that memory for L2 sentences ought to contain more surface information than L1 sentences. Native and non-native speakers of English were tested on a set of sentence pairs with different surface forms but the same meaning (e.g., “The bullet hit/struck the bull's eye”). Memory for these sentences was assessed with a cued recall procedure. Responses showed that native and non-native speakers did not differ in the accuracy of gist-based recall but that non-native speakers outperformed native speakers in the retention of surface form. The results suggest that L2 processing involves more intensive encoding of lexical level information than L1 processing.
- memory for language
- reconstructive memory