Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Keynote Article

New approaches to concepts in bilingual memory

Aneta Pavlenko a1c1
a1 Temple University


In this paper, I argue that current approaches to modeling of concepts in bilingual memory privilege word representation at the expense of concept representation. I identify four problems with the study of concepts in bilingual memory: conflation of semantic and conceptual levels of representation; scarcity of methods targeting conceptual representation; assumption of the static nature of the conceptual store; and insufficient acknowledgment of linguistic and cultural specificity of concepts. Basing my arguments on recent developments in the fields of neurolinguistics, linguistics, psychology, linguistic anthropology, and second language acquisition, I suggest new approaches to the study of concepts in bilingualism, based on notions of concept comparability and concept encoding. Subsequently, I discuss various ways in which concepts could develop and interact with each other in bilingual memory and address possible individual, psycholinguistic, and sociolinguistic constraints on conceptual representation and interaction in bilingual memory.

(Received September 10 1998)
(Accepted September 8 1999)

c1 Address for correspondence: CITE Department, College of Education, Ritter Hall, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122. Phone: 215-204-3792 E-mail: