Changing frames of reference: Language impacts cognition and memory in Indian bilinguals


Journal Article (Academic article)

Although converging evidence suggests that bilinguals may be bicultural, questions remain about the mechanisms underlying the relationship between language, culture, and cognition. Some research shows that bilinguals possess dual cognitive frameworks, whereas others underscore the importance of the socio-cultural environment in which bilingualism emerges. By adapting a traditional switching paradigm, we explored differences within individuals in cultural processing and memory as a function of language. We examined the narratives of two groups of Indian bilinguals, Tamil bilinguals and Hindi bilinguals. Results revealed that language impacts code-switching, memory, and narrative differentially for Hindi and Tamil bilinguals. In terms of memory, Tamil bilinguals were more accurate in their recall than Hindi bilinguals. Furthermore, Hindi and Tamil bilinguals displayed evaluations differentially in their storytelling as means to convey their own perspectives. Hindi bilinguals used more intensifiers in Hindi than in English. Tamil bilinguals, however, provided moral evaluations only in their Tamil narratives. Thus, through our examination of a less studied bilingual population, we were able to demonstrate that bilinguals are bicultural and both dual cognitive frameworks and the socio-cultural practices influence bilingual language use and cognition.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kalia, V; Wilbourn, MP

Published Date

  • 2012

Published In

  • Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology