Production of Inflected Novel Words in Older Adults With and Without Dementia

Alexandre Nikolaev*, Eve Higby, Jung Moon Hyun, Minna Lehtonen, Sameer Ashaie, Merja Hallikainen, Tuomo Hänninen, Hilkka Soininen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


While cognitive changes in aging and neurodegenerative disease have been widely studied, language changes in these populations are less well understood. Inflecting novel words in a language with complex inflectional paradigms provides a good opportunity to observe how language processes change in normal and abnormal aging. Studies of language acquisition suggest that children inflect novel words based on their phonological similarity to real words they already know. It is unclear whether speakers continue to use the same strategy when encountering novel words throughout the lifespan or whether adult speakers apply symbolic rules. We administered a simple speech elicitation task involving Finnish-conforming pseudo-words and real Finnish words to healthy older adults, individuals with mild cognitive impairment, and individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD) to investigate inflectional choices in these groups and how linguistic variables and disease severity predict inflection patterns. Phonological resemblance of novel words to both a regular and an irregular inflectional type, as well as bigram frequency of the novel words, significantly influenced participants' inflectional choices for novel words among the healthy elderly group and people with AD. The results support theories of inflection by phonological analogy (single-route models) and contradict theories advocating for formal symbolic rules (dual-route models).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12879
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Dual-route models
  • Inflectional morphology
  • Language
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Phonological analogy
  • Single-route models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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