Language and Memory

Memory can be broadly classified into three; semantic memory basically associated with factual knowledge, procedural memory which takes care of learning and acquisition of skills and episodic memory which is in charge of recalling past events. The paper offers an explanation of the nature and functions of language, an examination of the stages of language production and the relationship between semantic memory and language production.

Nature and Functions of Semantic Memory

Semantic knowledge as described is primarily concerned with facts. Communication through language is made possible through this memory. It is usually characterized by the brain storing information about words. According to Schacter (2001), the appearance and representation of these words is of importance as far as semantic memory is concerned.

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It is usually a funny scenario to see a person trying to recall a name James by mentioning John or Jack and not Moses. Semantic memory has been found to group words that share the same letters. The appearance of an object cannot evade the mind of a person once the name of the object is mentioned (Schacter, 2001).

A mere mention of an object brings about a coordinated response by the brain and a person is able to figure out the appearance of the mentioned object. A long-term memory system is achieved once words recorded in the semantic memory are used to generate episodic memory.

Functions of language

Language forms a major component in the effective functioning of semantic memory (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2008). It is therefore important to understand the various functions of language in order to fully appreciate its role as a memory tool. Basically, three functions are significant and shall be discussed in detail. The informative language function serves to communicate effective information.

Logic is of importance due to the fact that sentences are based on a true or false platform. Expressive language function is important because feelings and emotions are evoked and expressed. It is through poetry and literature that a speaker is able to air out his/her feelings and a reader consequently understands the circumstances that prompted the generation of such works (Schacter, 2001).

Fiction may also find itself a place in this language function. Directive language function plays a crucial role in causing or preventing an action. It is usually not based on a true or false platform but a logical precision is required. A statement like “Your airtime is getting low” implies that you are supposed to recharge your cell-phone to continue enjoying calling services.

Other language functions include; ceremonial functions which find their place in weddings and court sessions. Performative utterances employ the use of verbs and are important in ensuring that an action is taken thereafter. Phatic language is used mainly to bring about emphasis on the intended subject.

It may be accompanied with head nod, a hand wave or even a gesture. It is important to ensure that the context of a statement is understood in order to relate it to the intended language function. A statement like “My bedroom is hot” can be informative (based on observation), expressive (to communicate one’s feelings then) or directive (to ensure that all windows remain open).

Development of Language

Language develops just as children do. The development is based on four pillars namely; conceptualization, planning, articulation and self-monitoring (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2008).Conceptualization, according to Robinson-Riegler and Robinson-Riegler, is the one’s ability to understand what he/she wants to say.

It can also be termed as the pre-production stage because silence dominates. Planning stage involves putting all that is to be communicated in a systematic way. All ideas that one feels that should be part of the speech are clearly stipulated. Articulation ensures that the correct arrangement of words is ensured. It is obvious that in the word “chair” the syllable “cha” precedes the other.

It is at this stage that the actual speech emerges. Self-monitoring is usually a post-development stage. It is at this stage that a person is able to know whether fluency has indeed been achieved. Whether a person is at the intermediate or advanced stages of fluency depends on the levels of self monitoring as well as the action taken thereof.

The Relationship between Language and Semantic Memory

The relationship between language and semantic memory is important. The ability to correctly retrieve information may at times depend upon one’s ability to apply proper phonology (Solomon, 2004).

Phonological priming observed among the old and the young indicated that the olds’ word retrieval level deteriorated after reading first syllable primes. Spelling and the causes of error associated with it have in the past been used to evaluate the declines in language production processes. Recent studies have shown that the detection levels of spelling errors deteriorated with age (Ralph, 2000).

The old especially those past 60 years old registered low detection levels as far as spelling errors are concerned. It is however funny to note that the low levels in spell detection did not have a negative impact on the ability to remember what was read. The more a person makes spelling mistakes, the more that person recalls the information.


Semantic memory usually determines one’s ability to gather knowledge. Language is a key to effective acquisition of knowledge. The ease with which an aspect is understood plays a crucial role in the retrieval process by the brain.

It is therefore important to ensure that language rules are adhered to for a reliable semantic memory to be in place. It can therefore be concluded that both memory and language are interrelated. The presence or absence of one affects the functionality of the other.


Ralph, M. (2000). The relationship between semantic memory and speech production. Center for Neural Basis of Cognition, Pittsburgh, USA

Robinson-Riegler, G. & Robinson-Riegler, B. (2008). Cognitive psychology: Applying the science of the mind (2nd ed). Boston, MA: Pearson/ Allyn and Bacon

Schacter, D. L. (2001). The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers. Houghton Mifflin Co.

Solomon, E. S. (2004). Semantic Amalgamation and Syntactic Development in Language Production. Elsevier Customer Service Department, Orlando


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