Elderly adults (70 to 89 years) and young adults (30 to 49 years) were asked to imitate complex
sentences involving embedded gerunds, w/z-clauses, r/ia/-clauses, and relative clauses. The young adults were able to imitate accurately or correctly paraphrase the sentences regardless of the length, position, or type of embedded clause. The elderly adults could accurately imitate or paraphrase short constructions. The elderly adults were unable to imitate or paraphrase correctly long constructions, especially those in which the embedded clause was sentence-initial. The pattern of results demonstrates an age-related decline in syntactic processing abilities due, perhaps, to the increased processing demands of the long or sentence-initial constructions.
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