Age-related decline in case-marker processing and its relation to working memory capacity

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Objectives: Purposes of the current study were to investigate whether age-related decline emerged in a case-marker assignment task (CMAT) and to explore the relationship between working-memory (WM) capacity and case-marker processing. Method: A total of 121 individuals participated in the study with 62 younger adults and 59 elderly adults. All were administered a CMAT that consisted of active and passive constructions with canonical and noncanonical word-order conditions. A composite measure of WM tasks served as an index of participants’ WM capacity. Results: The older group performed worse than the younger group, and the noncanonical word order elicited worse performance than the canonical condition. The older group demonstrated greater difficulty in case-marker processing under the canonical condition and passive construction. Regression results revealed that age, education, and sentence type were the best predictors to account for performance on the CMAT. Discussion: The canonicity of word order and passive construction were critical factors related to decline in abilities in a case-marker assignment. The combination of age, education, and sentence type factors accounted for overall performance on case-marker processing. Results indicated the crucial necessity to find a cognitively and linguistically demanding condition that elicits aging effects most efficiently, considering language-specific syntactic features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-820
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government(NRF-2014S1A5A8018080).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved.


  • Aging
  • Canonicity of word order
  • Case-marker processing
  • Syntactic complexity
  • Working memory capacity


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