Source: Gandhar Thakur/Pexels Prediction has been touted as a "canonical cortical computation" [i], and essential for basic linguistic processes [ii]. Naturally, the efficiency with which the brain can implement its various forms of predictive processing will change as a person ages, but it has previously been unclear how this more specifically impacts language. A study this week sought to address this issue [iii]. A range of work in psycholinguistics seems to point to certain differences in how older and younger adults use context-based linguistic predictions to understand language. For instance, if words in a narrative are semantically related in some way, this can be used to anticipate upcoming material. If someone walks into an office meeting, abruptly shouts “Ainsley Harriott”, and then departs, our understanding of appropriate context for language use informs us that some kind of violation has occurred. Likewise, certain grammatical tendencies of a language might prime a particular interpretation of a sentence over another, as when "The old man the boats" is deemed ungrammatical if we initially assume "The old man" to be referring to a person, rather than the action (i.e. manning boats) of a group of people (i.e. old people). Previous work has shown that, in younger… Read full this story
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