Spoken Language Production in Young Adults: Examining Syntactic Complexity Purpose In this study, we examined syntactic complexity in the spoken language samples of young adults. Its purpose was to contribute to the expanding knowledge base in later language development and to begin building a normative database of language samples that potentially could be used to evaluate young adults with ... Research Article
Research Article  |   May 24, 2017
Spoken Language Production in Young Adults: Examining Syntactic Complexity
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Marilyn A. Nippold
    University of Oregon, Eugene
  • Megan W. Frantz-Kaspar
    University of Oregon, Eugene
  • Laura M. Vigeland
    University of Oregon, Eugene
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Marilyn A. Nippold: nippold@uoregon.edu
  • Editor: Sean Redmond
    Editor: Sean Redmond×
  • Associate Editor: Janna Oetting
    Associate Editor: Janna Oetting×
Article Information
Normal Language Processing / Language Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   May 24, 2017
Spoken Language Production in Young Adults: Examining Syntactic Complexity
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, May 2017, Vol. 60, 1339-1347. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-16-0124
History: Received March 28, 2016 , Revised June 6, 2016 , Accepted November 28, 2016
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, May 2017, Vol. 60, 1339-1347. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-16-0124
History: Received March 28, 2016; Revised June 6, 2016; Accepted November 28, 2016

Purpose In this study, we examined syntactic complexity in the spoken language samples of young adults. Its purpose was to contribute to the expanding knowledge base in later language development and to begin building a normative database of language samples that potentially could be used to evaluate young adults with known or suspected language impairment.

Method Forty adults (mean age = 22 years, 10 months) with typical language development participated in an interview that consisted of 3 speaking tasks: a general conversation about common, everyday topics; a narrative retelling task that involved fables; and a question-and-answer, critical-thinking task about the fables. Each speaker's interview was audio-recorded, transcribed, broken into communication units, coded for main and subordinate clauses, entered into Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (Miller, Iglesias, & Nockerts, 2004), and analyzed for mean length of communication unit and clausal density.

Results Both the narrative and critical-thinking tasks elicited significantly greater syntactic complexity than the conversational task. It was also found that syntactic complexity was significantly greater during the narrative task than the critical-thinking task.

Conclusion Syntactic complexity was best revealed by a narrative task that involved fables. The study offers benchmarks for language development during early adulthood.

Acknowledgment
The authors express sincere appreciation to the adults who participated in this investigation.
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