Carolinas Conversations Collection
Carolinas Conversations Collection

Age & Language

 As people age, their language production and comprehension changes, though we are only now beginning to understand details of why this happens, precisely what the changes are (that is, does aging affect word or sentence production more greatly), and how language and memory are linked.  Burke and Shafto (2008) provide a fine research review of work on cognition and on language processing,  emphasizing the role of language in aging. For example, adults without cognitive impairment typically do not suffer declines in vocabulary until they are very old. Kemper (1989), Obler et al (2008), and others have added studies of changes in language as cognition declines, such as the Nun Study (Snowdon 1996; Also important are the often-negative attitudes toward the spoken language of older people, resulting in what is called the Communication Predicament of Aging (Ryan et al 1986). Research-based work on language and education has led to a number of exciting projects such as Writing Down Our Years, a website and blog sponsored by gerontologist Dr. Ellen Ryan, which showcases writing in multiple genres by older adults with and without impairments ( The speakers in this corpus hope to increase our understanding of language and aging.

  Burke, D. M., & Shafto, M. A. (2007). Language and Aging. In F. Criak & T. Salthouse (Eds.), The Handbook of Aging and Cognition. NY: Psychology Press
  Kemper, S. 1989.Language and Aging. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 10: 37-50
  Obler, L.K., & Pekkala, S. (2008). Language and communication in aging. In B. Stemmer & H. Whitaker (Eds.), Handbook of neurolinguistics (2 ed.,  pp. 351-358). Oxford: Elsevier Press.
  Ryan, E.B., Giles, H., Bartolucci, G., & Henwood, K. (1986). Psycholinguistic and social-psychological components of communication by and with older adults. Language and Communication 6, 1-22.
  Snowdon, D., Kemper S., Mortimer J. et al, (1996). Linguistic ability in early life and coognitive function and Alzheiimer's disease in late life. JAMA 275, 528-532.
Carolinas Conversations Collection