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Referential Ambiguity in the Narrative Productions of African American Adults (Wainwright & Cannito, 2015)

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journal contribution
posted on 01.11.2015, 00:00 by Angela Bradford Wainwright, Michael P. Cannito
Purpose The purpose of this study was to examine the production of referential ambiguities in two contrasting narrative conditions among age-defined groups of healthy African American women.
Method Twenty middle-aged adults (M = 51 years) and 20 older adults (M = 72 years) produced a complex story retelling and a personal narrative. All narratives were transcribed orthographically, parsed into T-units, and analyzed for surface structure markings of referents and the presence of ambiguities.
Results The results demonstrated that older adults produced more ambiguities than middle-aged adults, were more compromised with task complexity, used more role or relation designations to refer to story characters while underusing proper names, and exhibited significant lexical retrieval deficits during ongoing narrative production. Middle-aged adults produced more proper names, but were also challenged by the complexity of the story-retelling task. Moreover, the results showed that older adults produced more African American English variants than middle-aged adults.
Conclusion This investigation revealed a pattern of age-related ambiguities during narrative production. The results demonstrated that lexical retrieval from long-term semantic memory was an important predictor of ambiguity, whereas African American English contributed negligibly. These results show that referential ambiguities may be a robust characteristic of cognitive–linguistic changes that occur with typical aging.

Funding

This research was funded by the Center for Research Initiatives and Strategies for the Communicatively Impaired (CRISCI) grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The grant was awarded to the University of Memphis, School of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.

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