Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Tara T. Lineweaver


I explored second language acquisition in adults by examining false memories for semantically and phonologically related word lists in both the participants' first language and second language. I expected less proficient bilinguals who are initially acquiring their second language would make more phonological false memory errors, like children learning their first language. In contrast, I anticipated that more proficient bilinguals would make more semantic false memory errors in the DRM paradigm as the semantic stores for their two languages overlap more fully. Forty-one English-Spanish bilinguals (High Proficiency: n = 17; Low Proficiency: n = 24) completed a false memory task for semantically and phonologically related word lists in English and Spanish. The present study found that while the low proficiency group made more phonological than semantic errors in their second language when recalling studied lists as expected, the high proficiency bilinguals did not make more semantic than phonological errors in Spanish. Instead, both proficiency groups were much more prone to phonological than semantic errors regardless of whether they were remembering Spanish or English word lists. Additionally both groups made more false memory errors on Spanish than English lists. These results call into question whether there is in fact a phonological to semantic shift when acquiring a second language. Rather, they suggest that a second language may be mapped directly on to a first language, creating a pattern in which bilinguals are just as prone to make semantic false memories in a second language as in a first language.