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Poster A23, Wednesday, November 8, 10:30 – 11:45 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Impact of aging and aphasia on incremental sentence production: eye-tracking while speaking

Jiyeon Lee1, Grace Man1, Jennifer Frederick1;1Purdue University

The normal sentence production system opportunistically uses both word- and structure-level information to ease lexico-syntactic integration processes (Bock & Ferreira, 2014). In word-driven production, speakers incrementally plan sentence structures as they speak based on the relative ease of retrieving individual words (e.g., attentional saliency of characters, lexical accessibility). In structure-driven production, in contrast, the availability of a larger relational structure among elements (e.g., verb argument structure) drives speakers’ choice of sentence structures. Little systematic research is available on how different types of information accessibility influence syntactic production in individuals with aphasia (IWA). Recent eye-tracking sentence production studies have shown that encoding verb argument structure information before speech onset is facilitative of sentence production in IWA, in line with structure-driven production (Lee & Thompson, 2011a; 2011b; Lee, Yoshida, & Thompson, 2015). However, it remains unknown if the aphasic production system also follows word-driven incremental production. This study examines the effects of attentional (Experiment 1) and lexical priming (Experiment 2) on speakers’ choice of alternating sentence structures during off-line (accuracy) and on-line (eyetracking) sentence production. Sixteen young adults, 14 older adults, and 7 IWAs participated in the study so far. In Experiment 1, production of sentences with perspective verbs (e.g., buy/sell) and those with conjoined noun phrases was examined. Attentional saliency of alternating characters in a scene (e.g., agent/theme) was manipulated by presenting a brief attention capture cue (a red dot, r = 25 pixels) for 100 ms at the position of the primed character before the target picture was presented. In Experiment 2, production of sentences with dative and transitive alternations was examined under lexical priming. The relative ease of lexical retrieval for the critical nouns was manipulated based on the ‘givenness’ of the nouns in the auditory probe sentence (e.g., what is happening with the man? vs. what is happening with the boy? for the active (the man kicked the boy) vs. passive (the boy was kicked by the man) targets respectively). For off-line production, young and older adults showed significant attentional and lexical priming effects, producing preferred (primed) characters earlier in the sentence more frequently under preferred than non-preferred priming conditions (p’s < .01). However, for IWA, only lexical primes (p < .05) but not attentional primes successfully modulated aphasic speakers’ production of sentence structures. For eye fixation data, all three groups made earlier fixations to the primed than non-primed character in both experiments (p’s < .01), suggesting that both attentional and lexical primes were effective in successfully drawing visual attention to different characters, thus activating the primed word earlier than the non-primed word. These findings suggest that older and aphasic speakers have preserved ability to incrementally plan sentences, taking advantage of relative accessibility of lexical items (Slevc, 2011; Gleitman et al., 2007). However, the aphasic production system may not be as radically incremental as the sentence production system in healthy speakers, as evidenced by greater priming effects with linguistic (lexical in the current study; structural in previous studies) compared to non-linguistic (attentional) cues (cf. Saffran et al., 1980).

Topic Area: Language Therapy

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