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Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Bergs, Alexander / Cohn, Abigail C. / Good, Jeff

CiteScore 2018: 0.95

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.381
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Implicit Causality in younger and older adults

Dagmar Bittner
Published Online: 2019-06-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0023


The study asked whether there are age-related differences in the Implicit Causality values (IC-values) of transitive verbs in younger and older adults. The results are expected to support either linguistic accounts or world-knowledge accounts of the origin of Implicit Causality. Using the traditional sentence-completion task (John VERBs Mary, because …) 124 verbs were investigated in a group of students around age 23 and in a group of older people around age 81. Compared to the students, the older people produced higher proportions of Object-reference with verbs showing Subject-reference in general and higher Subject-reference with verbs showing Object-reference in general. Verb-class analysis in terms of semantic role patterns showed that the IC-values of SE-verbs and ES-verbs were less different in the two groups than those of SE-AP-verbs, AP-verbs, and APpres-verbs. The differences in the two latter classes are significant. The relatively broad similarity in the IC-values of the two age groups supports linguistic accounts of the origin of IC-values. The observed differences, however, point to variation in the perspective on interpersonal events in younger and older adults. It is hypothesized that the latter observation reflects an impact of world knowledge on IC-values in that the social life situations of younger and older adults shape expectations regarding who is causing an interpersonal event somewhat differently in the two age groups.

Keywords: language and aging; Implicit Causality; semantics; pragmatics


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About the article

Received: 2018-05-15

Accepted: 2018-12-13

Published Online: 2019-06-22

Funding Source: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Award identifier / Grant number: 01UG1411

Thanks are due to many students who helped in collecting the data, to Jeruen Dery for joint work on IC over the course of several years, Torgrim Solstad for discussions, Luke Tudge for statistical analysis, two anonymous reviewers for fruitful comments, and, last but not least, to the two editors of this volume for their helpful suggestions and patience. Financial support for the presented research was given by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Grant 01UG1411.

Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, Volume 5, Issue s2, 20180023, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0023.

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