Chapter

Language in Adulthood

Susan Kemper

in Lifespan Cognition

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195169539
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847204 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195169539.003.0015
Language in Adulthood

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It is tempting to postulate that language development across the lifespan is U-shaped such that language “regression” mirrors language acquisition. Typically, this regression hypothesis is put forth to account for aphasic disorders and has also been applied to language loss with regard to the discontinued use of a first language and the decline of language in dementia. Both strong and weak forms of the regression hypothesis are proposed: the strong form holds that language regression is the mirror image of language acquisition at all levels of analysis, whereas the weak form suggests parallels while acknowledging different mechanisms or principles. Within the cognitive aging framework, there has been an emphasis on four contrasting accounts of age-related changes to language: cognitive slowing, inhibitory deficits, the effects of working-memory limitations, and language-specific effects on word retrieval. This chapter considers each account with regard to a salient phenomenon: older adults' use of simplified speech register resulting from an age-related decline in the syntactic complexity of oral and written language.

Keywords: language development; older adults; speech register; language acquisition; regression hypothesis; dementia; aphasic disorders; language regression; language; cognitive aging

Chapter.  9843 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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