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Saturday, October 12 • 2:55pm - 3:20pm
Adli & Engel: Grammatical complexity of the very old: interplay of cognitive and social factors

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Grammatical complexity of the very old: interplay of cognitive and social factors

This paper investigates grammatical complexity in the speech of 479 elderly German speakers (mean age: 86 years), drawing on a large, cross-disciplinary survey (Wagner et al., 2018) on their living situation.

We analyzed sentence length, pronoun rate, and depth of clausal embedding. The results indicate that lower cognitive performance correlates with higher pronoun rates - due to pragmatically inadequate uses with unclear reference - and shorter sentences. Furthermore, higher occupational status and higher level of education respectively lead to lower pronoun rates, longer sentences, and more complex embedding structures. Lastly, the size of the social network inhibits the overuse of pronouns.

In sum, clausal embedding correlates with socio-economic factors only, while pronoun rate and sentence length correlate both with cognitive and socio-economic factors. We discuss the protective effect of social factors against cognitive impairment (as evidenced by less frequent overuse of pronouns), as well as the possible influence of register and speech style.

Speakers
AA

Aria Adli

University of Cologne
EE

Eric Engel

University of Cologne


Saturday October 12, 2019 2:55pm - 3:20pm
EMU Crater Lake S
  • Session type Talk
  • Chair: Suzanne Evans Wagner


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