The influence of aging and aphasia on bilingual semantic organization

Siyambalapitiya, Samantha, Chenery, Helen J., and Copland, David A. (2008) The influence of aging and aphasia on bilingual semantic organization. In: Prcoeedings of the 13th International Aphasia Rehabilitation Conference. From: 13th International Aphasia Rehabilitation Conference, 30 June - 03 July 2008, Ljubijana, Slovenia.

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Background: In managing bilingual aphasia, effective therapy techniques should be based on a clear understanding of bilingual language organization and the impact of aphasia on bilinguallexico-semantic relations. Whilst several studies have employed semantic priming to investigate the nature of bilingual semantic representation in younger adult bilinguals, few studies have investigated on-line semantic processing in older adult bilinguals or bilingual speakers with aphasia. In younger bilingual adults, evidence of cross-language priming is posited to be indicative of shared semantic representation across languages. The present study employed a bilingual semantic priming task to investigate whether cross-language priming effects would be preserved in older adult bilinguals and following neurological injury.

Method: Twenty bilingual Italian/English speakers (13 female, 7 male) aged between 47 and 80 years (mean = 62 years) participated in the experiment. The experiment was also completed by one 70-year-old female Italian/English speaker with bilingual aphasia following a left (VA. Participants were presented with pairs of auditory stimuli in which the first stimulus was a real Italian or English word and the second stimulus was either a real word or nonword. There were four conditions in which word pairs were related: Italian-Italian, English-English, English-Italian and Italian-English and four corresponding unrelated and nonword conditions. Participants were required to make speeded lexical decisions on the second stimulus in each pair and indicated real words with a button press. No response was required for nonwords.

Results: For the older bilingual adults, mean reaction times from the related and unrelated conditions were analysed using a linear mixed model with the within-subjects factors of relatedness, language congruence and target language and the covariate English exposure. The analysis revealed significant main effects for relatedness, language congruence and target language as well as a target language by English exposure interaction. Further pair-wise comparisons demonstrated that priming occurred in all of the within-language and cross-language conditions. This pattern was shown by participants with both less English exposure and more English exposure. In contrast, the participant with bilingual aphasia showed a reaction time advantage for related pairs only in the two within-language conditions. No such pattern was found in the cross-language conditions.

Discussion: The results indicate that both cross-language and Within-language priming is found in older adult bilinguals which suggests that shared bilingual semantic representation is unaffected by aging mechanisms. The lack of cross-language priming, however, in the participant with bilingual aphasia suggests that neurological insult may disturb cross-language semantic connections whilst within-language semantic links appear to be preserved. The absence of cross-language priming suggests separate semantic storage for each language in the participant with aphasia.

Conclusion: The present study results suggest that aphasia may disrupt cross-linguistic semantic connections whereas withinlanguage semantic links may be preserved. Further research is required to verify whether this pattern is consistently demonstrated in bilingual aphasia and to explore the implications for devising effective language therapy techniques.

Item ID: 29315
Item Type: Conference Item (Abstract / Summary)
ISSN: 1606-0721
Keywords: semantic priming, bilingual aphasia, bilingual semantic organization
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2013 06:14
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1702 Cognitive Science > 170204 Linguistic Processes (incl Speech Production and Comprehension) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920201 Allied Health Therapies (excl. Mental Health Services) @ 100%
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