The word order of languages predicts native speakers’ working memory



Amici F, Sánchez-Amaro A, Sebastián-Enesco C, Cacchione T, Allritz M, Salazar-Bonet J & Rossano F (2019) The word order of languages predicts native speakers’ working memory. Scientific Reports, 9, Art. No.: 1124.

The relationship between language and thought is controversial. One hypothesis is that language fosters habits of processing information that are retained even in non-linguistic domains. In left-branching (LB) languages, modifiers usually precede the head, and real-time sentence comprehension may more heavily rely on retaining initial information in working memory. Here we presented a battery of working memory and short-term memory tasks to adult native speakers of four LB and four right-branching (RB) languages from Africa, Asia and Europe. In working memory tasks, LB speakers were better than RB speakers at recalling initial stimuli, but worse at recalling final stimuli. Our results show that the practice of parsing sentences in specific directions due to the syntax and word order of our native language not only predicts the way we remember words, but also other non-linguistic stimuli.

Scientific Reports: Volume 9

FundersAlexander von Humboldt Foundation
Publication date28/02/2019
Publication date online28/02/2019
Date accepted by journal12/12/2018
PublisherNature Publishing Group UK London

People (1)


Dr Alejandro Sanchez Amaro

Dr Alejandro Sanchez Amaro

Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology