OBJECTIVES: This study investigated linear and non-linear age effects on language use with speech samples that were representative of naturally occurring conversations.
METHOD: Using a corpus-based approach, we examined couples' conflict conversations in the laboratory. The conversations, from a total of 364 community dwelling German-speaking heterosexual couples (aged 19 to 82), were videotaped and transcribed. We examined usage of lower-frequency words, grammatical complexity, and utterance of filled pauses (e.g., äh ["um"]).
RESULTS: Multilevel models showed that age effects on the usage of lower-frequency words were non-significant. Grammatical complexity increased until middle age (i.e., 54) and then declined. The utterance of filled pauses increased until old age (i.e., 70) and then decreased.
DISCUSSION: Results are discussed in relation to cognitive aging research.