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Catherine Bolly - UCL : Verbal and nonverbal language in aging. A naturalistic approach to study the emotional and attitudinal behavior of very old people in real-world settings


2015 - There is currently some evidence that adaptive strategies are at play in the aging process, invoked by speakers to reach social and communicative goals during interaction. In line with this view, our work addresses questions that are of crucial importance for a better understanding of the age-related features of language in later life. These questions are, among others: can emotional and attitudinal states of older people (e.g. anxiety, wellness, etc.) be inferred from their way of speaking and gesturing? To what extent does the degree of familiarity between interlocutors have an impact on the older person’s communication mode? The Corpage and CorpAGEst projects explore the ability of old people (aged over 75 year old) to use emotional and attitudinal expressions in a contextually appropriate manner (for example: euh ‘ur’, you know ‘tu sais’ in speech; shoulders’shrugs, smiles, or finger pointing in gesture). The results obtained give insight into the way speech and gestures combine to convey pragmatic meaning in language use, with respect to individual variation and similarities. The innovative method, which is based on the analysis of audio- and video-recorded interviews, provides an answer to the increasingly evident need to resort to naturalistic methods in the area of aging, moving from experiments in the laboratory towards empirical studies ‘into the wild’.

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