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Examiners administered a total of 40 stimuli with 20 items for each task type: the syntactic-priming task and sentence-completion task. Each task consisted of canonical and noncanonical conditions with 10 items for each condition. Each task was administered as a block in which canonical and noncanonical sentences were randomly presented.

The order of administering the two tasks was counterbalanced across participants to minimize order effects. Responses were coded as correct when participants constructed a passive sentence using correct grammatical markers for each thematic role and correctly inflected verbs.

Responses counted as an error when participants did not use the target syntactic structure that examiners primed or initiated with the noun phrase, although they produced grammatically correct sentences. For example, when participants used an active voice to construct a sentence, it was coded as an error because they did not follow the instructions. To examine whether sentence-production abilities are related to aging, Pearson correlation coefficients were computed among ages and the percentage of accuracy from four types of sentence-production tasks.

Age was significantly and negatively correlated with all four conditions of the sentence-production tasks with correlation coefficients of -. To explore the best predictor for age among the four types of sentence-production tasks, a stepwise multiple regression analysis was performed. Age served as a predictor variable. I calculated the percentage of accurate responses for each sentence-production task, and entered the percentages of accurate responses from the four task types priming-canonical, priming-noncanonical, completion-canonical, completion-noncanonical conditions as predictors.

Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated among the variables including WM, age, and percentage of accurate responses for each condition of the sentence-production tasks. WM was significantly and positively correlated with all conditions of the sentence-production tasks with the correlation coefficients of. To examine the effects of WM capacity on sentence-production abilities, partial correlation coefficients were computed after controlling for age between WM and each condition of the sentence-production tasks. The purpose of the current study was two-fold: a to investigate the best predictor to capture age-related changes in passive-sentence production when task demands were systematically manipulated, varying task types a syntactic-priming task vs.

The study revealed that age was significantly and negatively correlated with all four conditions of the sentence-production tasks with a range of correlation coefficients from-. These findings align with previous studies that suggested sentence-production abilities were vulnerable to aging [ 13 , 16 — 18 ].

The current study employed constrained sentence-production tasks by manipulating task demands, based on the assumption that tasks with greater cognitive demands would be the best predictors of aging.

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Consistent with the hypothesis, the task with the greatest demands, such as sentences with a noncanonical word order under the syntactic-priming paradigm, was selected as a best predictor of aging. It is interesting to note that canonicity is one of the factors that affected performance on aging-related decline in sentence-production abilities for Korean-speaking individuals, given that Korean is regarded as a relatively free word-order language.

Linguistic constituents can be freely scrambled in Korean as long as verbs remain in a sentence-final position. Considering the linguistic features of Korean, canonicity has not gained much attention in Korean sentence-production studies compared to other languages in which the word order is a critical factor that affects performance on sentence production.


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However, when the canonicity factor was combined with memory-demanding task factors, age-related decline in sentence-production abilities manifested most clearly. The current study suggested that noncanonical word order may be imposed on more linguistic computational loads than canonical word order because participants need to rearrange the word order instead of inhibiting automatically activated canonical word order. To my knowledge, the current study is the first attempt to investigate the effects of canonicity on sentence-production abilities from the perspective of aging.

The results are worthy of garnering greater attention to the role of canonicity in Korean sentence-processing studies. I hypothesized that the syntactic-priming task is a more memory-demanding task than the sentence-completion task, given that participants need to hold the primed syntactic structure in their memory buffer until they produce the target sentence in the syntactic priming task, whereas all linguistic units were provided in the picture they described in the sentence-completion task. Consistent with the hypothesis, the syntactic-priming task, especially with a noncanonical word order, turned out to be the most critical factor that predicted aging-related decline in sentence-production abilities.

These results are consistent with previous studies that suggested age-related differences in sentence production were most clearly observed in more complex conditions [ 5 ]. The current study suggested that aging effects were maximized when challenging factors were combined. The current study investigated whether WM capacity affiliates with aging-related decline in sentence-production abilities and how individual differences in WM capacity relate to performance under different conditions from sentence-production tasks, after controlling for age.

The results suggested that age-related decline in WM capacity may serve as one of the underlying mechanisms that account for diminished performance and age-related changes in sentence-production abilities. Furthermore, WM was significantly correlated only with the condition of a noncanonical word order from the syntactic-priming task when age was controlled. Results indicated that WM might affect individual abilities to produce sentences, and the effects may manifest most clearly in more cognitively demanding conditions.

Many studies validated the concept that age-related decline in WM capacity relates to sentence-comprehension ability [ 8 , 39 — 41 ].

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Previous findings consistently suggested that older adults with reduced WM capacity showed significantly worse performance on sentence-comprehension tasks, especially with complex syntactic structures such as center-embedded sentences. However, few studies directly addressed questions about the relationship between age-related WM decline and sentence-production abilities. The current study provided evidence of the relationship between age-related WM decline and sentence-production abilities. To summarize, sentence-production abilities were vulnerable to aging, and the age-related decline in sentence-production abilities emerged most clearly in the most WM-demanding tasks.

WM capacity partially accounted for aging-related changes in sentence-production abilities. Additional studies are needed to more thoroughly investigate the role of WM capacity in aging-related differences in sentence production, and more various factors need to be explored to most sensitively capture aging-related changes in sentence production.

Conceived and designed the experiments: JES. Performed the experiments: JES. Analyzed the data: JES. Wrote the paper: JES. Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract Objectives This study investigated the best predictor to capture age-related changes in passive-sentence production using a constrained sentence-production paradigm and explored the role of working-memory capacity in relation to the task demands of the sentence-production tasks.

Methods A total of 60 participants participated in the study ranging in age from 21 to Results Age was significantly and negatively correlated with sentence-production tasks, and the most demanding condition with a noncanonical word order under the syntactic priming paradigm was the best predictor of aging. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Introduction Age-related differences in sentence production and their underlying cognitive mechanisms have received increasing attention. Download: PPT. Materials Syntactic-priming task. Sentence-completion task. Working-memory capacity measures.

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Experimental Procedures Examiners administered a total of 40 stimuli with 20 items for each task type: the syntactic-priming task and sentence-completion task. Results Correlation and Regression Analyses To examine whether sentence-production abilities are related to aging, Pearson correlation coefficients were computed among ages and the percentage of accuracy from four types of sentence-production tasks. Partial Correlation Coefficients between Working Memory and Sentence-Production Abilities after Controlling for the Age Factor Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated among the variables including WM, age, and percentage of accurate responses for each condition of the sentence-production tasks.

Discussion The purpose of the current study was two-fold: a to investigate the best predictor to capture age-related changes in passive-sentence production when task demands were systematically manipulated, varying task types a syntactic-priming task vs. Supporting Information. S1 Data. References 1. Kemper S, Mitzner TL. Language production and comprehension. Handbook of the psychology of aging. CA: Academic Press. San Diego; Working memory.

The Psychology of Learning and Motivation. View Article Google Scholar 3. A capacity theory of comprehension: Individual differences in working memory. Psychological Review.


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  • Processing resources and age differences in working memory. View Article Google Scholar 5. Models of cognitive aging. England: Oxford University Press; Waters GS, Caplan D. Age, working memory, and on-line syntactic processing in sentence comprehension. Psychology and Aging. Effects of age on comprehension of complex sentences in adulthood.

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    Journal of Speech and Hearing Research. The relationship between age, verbal working memory, and language comprehension. Kemper S.

    Syntactic complexity and capacity limitations in old age. Paper presented to the Psychonomic Society. New Orleans. Kemtes KA, Kemper S. Light L. Interactions between memory and language in old age. Auditory comprehension and aging: Decline in syntactic processing. Applied Psycholinguistics.

    View Article Google Scholar Age differences in sentence production. Longitudinal change in language production: Effects of aging and dementia on grammatical complexity and propositional content. Journal of Gerontology. Sentence production by young and older adults in controlled contexts.

    Altmann LJ, Kemper S. Effects of age, animacy and activation order on sentence production. Language and Cognitive Processes. Kemper S, Herman RE.

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    Age differences in memory-load interference effects in syntactic processing. Bock JK.