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J Psycholinguist Res. 2003 Sep;32(5):541-66.

Age preservation of the syntactic processor in production.

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University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, USA.


Two experiments are reported on the influence of cognitive aging on grammatical choice in language production. In both experiments, participants from two age-groups (young and old) produced sentences in a formulation task (V. Ferreira, 1996) that contrasted conditions allowing a choice between alternative sentence arrangements (i.e., double object or prepositional dative) or that permitted no choice (i.e., prepositional dative only). Experiment 1 showed that older adults were able to formulate the alternative sentence arrangements with the same speed and fluency as young adults. Experiment 2 showed that cueing attention to one of the two object nouns to be included in the sentence resulted in the earlier expression of the cued noun in choice conditions, but with little evidence of a response time or dysfluency cost in the no-choice condition. As in Experiment 1, there were no substantive age differences in latencies or dysfluencies. These results support existing models for the mechanisms that choose between grammatical alternatives and bind phrases to available argument positions and provide evidence that older adults are not impaired in their use of these mechanisms.

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