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    Multiple languages, memory, and regression: an examination of Ribot's Law

    Lorch, Marjorie (2009) Multiple languages, memory, and regression: an examination of Ribot's Law. Aphasiology 23 (5), pp. 643-654. ISSN 0268-7038.

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    Background: In his major work on diseases of memory, Théodule Ribot (1881) offered an explanation of the selective recovery patterns observed in some bilingual aphasic patients. His theory has been cited continuously in the aphasia literature over the past 125 years as one explanation for the relative sparing of an aphasic person's first language. Aims: This paper examines the history of ideas regarding language and memory with respect to understanding bilingual aphasia. Main Contribution: A significant distinction drawn by Ribot between disorders in monolingual and multilingual speakers appears to have been lost. Monolingual aphasic cases were discussed by Ribot under the classification of “partial amnesia”. In contrast, impairments in language with respect to those who had learned multiple languages were classified as “exaltations of memory”, or “hypermnesias”. Examination of Ribot's writings reveals a conceptual approach to memory, learning, and ageing that is distinct from that assumed today. This paper will critically examine these ideas and analyse the sources of Ribot's conceptualisation by placing his work in its historical context, and tracing the antecedents of his theories through the authors he cited. Conclusions: This review of the writings of Ribot, and those of his predecessors, highlights the fact that conceptual distinctions held in the nineteenth century led to research questions that were conceived of in a wholly different light from the present day. It throws into relief the strong distinctions currently assumed to exist between learning languages and learning other information, between first language acquisition and adult second language learning, and between lexical and syntactic knowledge. This investigation into the history of ideas suggests ways to further develop our current approach to account for the multitude of patterns observed in bilingual aphasia.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis, available online at the link above.
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): aphasia, bilingual, memory, ribot, Nineteenth Century, history of neurolinguistics
    School: School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Applied Linguistics and Communication (to 2020)
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2012 10:47
    Last Modified: 11 Jun 2021 15:00


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