Effects of syntactic structure on sentence comprehension ability as a function of the canonicity of word-order and its relation to working memory capacity in Korean-speaking elderly adults

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Abstract

Objectives: The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effects of syntactic structure as a function of the canonicity of word-order on sentence comprehension ability and to explore the relationship between working memory capacity and sentence comprehension ability for Korean-speaking normal elderly adults. Methods: A total of 51 normal elderly individuals participated in the study. The sentence comprehension task (SCT) consisted of three syntactic structures (active sentences with 2-place verbs, active sentences with 3-place verbs, and passive sentences) with the canonicity of word order being manipulated for each syntactic structure. A total of 36 sentences were administered to participants using a sentence-picture paradigm. Digit and word span tasks were used as working memory measures. Results: A two-way repeated ANOVA revealed significant effects for sentence type and the canonicity. A two-way interaction was significant, indicating that performance was differentially affected by sentence type as a function of canonicity. Participants showed the worst performance on passive sentences under the canonical word order; when sentences followed the non-canonical word order, they exhibited worse performance on active sentences with 3-place verbs. The SCT was highly correlated with working memory measures. Conclusion: Even though Korean is considered a free word-order language, these results suggest that the canonicity of word order affects sentence comprehension ability for normal elderly adults. More studies need to be conducted to further examine the critical factors that are associated with age-related changes in sentence comprehension ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-33
Number of pages10
JournalCommunication Sciences and Disorders
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Canonicity of word-order
  • Sentence comprehension
  • Syntactic structure

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