Event Abstract

Syntactic entrainment in aging and aphasia

  • 1 Purdue University, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, United States
  • 2 Univeristy of California-San Diego , Department of Psychology, United States

Effects such as syntactic priming are viewed as reflecting ongoing language-learning throughout the lifespan (Chang et al., 2006). Syntactic priming remains unaffected by aging and aphasia (Altmann et al., 2004; Hartsuiker & Kolk, 1998; Martin & Saffran, 1998). Additionally, facilitation from the priming of abstract syntactic structures is correlated with greater linguistic deficits in speakers with aphasia (Cho-Reyes et al., 2016), suggesting that syntactic priming remediates the procedural deficit in aphasia. Gruberg et al. (in prep-a) discovered syntactic entrainment, whereby speakers describe particular pictures using structures they heard describe those pictures previously. They analyze syntactic entrainment as reflecting the association of event features onto syntactic constructions (Goldberg, 1995). As a form of language learning, is syntactic entrainment reflective of a developmental trajectory and language deficits in aphasia? Gruberg et al. (in prep-b) showed that syntactic entrainment is more sensitive in children than in adults. Here, we investigate entrainment in older adults, as well as in adults with aphasia, to explore this question. Twenty young adults, 20 older adults, and 13 adults with stroke-induced mild-moderate aphasia participated in a collaborative language (picture-matching) game. Participants played the matcher and subsequently director roles with the experimenter, who described pictures using either preferred (active, prepositional dative, and on-variant locatives) or non-preferred structures (passive, double-objective dative, and with-variant locative). We measured whether participants produced the same structures to refer to specific pictures as the experimenter. The language game was repeated twice to examine if older and aphasic participants would show cumulative entrainment effects over time. Additionally, for aphasic participants, their entrainment effects were correlated with different language measures, including aphasia severity (WAB-AQ; Kertesz, 2006) and productions of argument structures, canonical sentences, and non-canonical sentences of the Northwestern Assessment of Verbs and Sentences (Thompson, 2011). A linear mixed effects model (lme4, Bates et al., 2014) revealed that both the entrainment effect (χ² (1) = 16.68, p < .001) and entrainment x group interaction (χ² (2) = 9.809, p = .007) significantly improved the model fit. Young adults were 13% more likely to produce preferred structures when the experimenter used preferred (75%) vs. non-preferred structures (62%) (p < .001). However, no entrainment effects were shown in older (73% vs. 69%) and aphasic participants (79% vs. 75%). Repetition and related interactions did not improve the model fit, indicating no cumulative entrainment effects over time in the participants. Lastly, none of the language measures revealed reliable correlation with entrainment effects in participants with aphasia (-.440 < R’s < .116, p’s > .152, Pearson R), different from the previous findings of syntactic priming in aphasia (Cho-Reyes et al., 2016; Harstuiker & Kolk, 1998). Thus, syntactic entrainment diminishes across the lifespan and is unaffected by aphasic status. This suggests that content-structure mappings stabilize across the lifespan, and that they are independent of the procedural deficit associated with aphasia.

Keywords: syntactic entrainment, syntactic priming, Aphasia, sentence production, language learning, developmental trajectory

Conference: 54th Annual Academy of Aphasia Meeting, Llandudno, United Kingdom, 16 Oct - 18 Oct, 2016.

Presentation Type: Platform Sessions

Topic: Academy of Aphasia

Citation: Lee J, Kumar S, Dick J, Ferreira V and Gruberg N (2016). Syntactic entrainment in aging and aphasia. Front. Psychol. Conference Abstract: 54th Annual Academy of Aphasia Meeting. doi: 10.3389/conf.fpsyg.2016.68.00090

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Received: 29 Apr 2016; Published Online: 15 Aug 2016.

* Correspondence: PhD. Jiyeon Lee, Purdue University, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, West Lafayette, IN, 47907, United States, lee1704@purdue.edu