Debby Keller-Cohen has had a long-standing research interest in the linguistic practices of aging adults. Some of her research on this topic has just appeared online (ahead of the print edition) in the journal Research on Aging. In her paper, Audience design and social relation in aging, Debby shows that the linguistic practices of older speakers depend on multiple factors, including the audience with which they communicate and their broader social involvement. This research is not only relevant to our understanding of the how language practices change with aging, but also can be of practical value to the care professions that deal with older adults. The bibliographical information and abstract of Debby's paper are given below.
This study asks two questions: (1) Do older adults modify their language based on age of the listener (audience design)? (2) Does social contact affect audience design in older adults? Older adults (n = 34; mean age = 82) engaged in an instructions task with two fictive listeners (a child and an adult) to test these questions. Results show that older adults used a greater total number of propositions and rapport-building devices and a lower type–token ratio when giving instructions to the child compared to the adult listener. Adults with more social interactions used more propositions when talking to a child. In addition, satisfaction with interactions was significantly positively related to task-tracking devices and negatively related to rapport-building devices by older adults. These results suggest that audience design and social relations are worth further study in language maintenance in older age.