Blog Archives

Foreign body aspiration and language spoken at home: 10-year review

Conclusion: Patients from non-English speaking backgrounds had a significantly higher incidence of food (particularly nut) aspiration. Awareness-raising and public education is needed in relevant communities to prevent certain foods, particularly nuts, being given to children too young to chew and swallow them adequately.

from the Journal of Laryngology and Otology

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Level of Education and Category Fluency Task among Spanish Speaking Elders: Number of Words, Clustering, and Switching Strategies

It has been well documented that education influences the individual’s performance on category fluency tasks but it is still unclear how this effect may differ across the different types of category tasks (i.e., animals, fruits, vegetables and clothing). This study aims (1) to analyze the effect of the level of education on four different types of category fluency tasks among elder Hispanic Americans and (2) to provide normative information on a population with different education levels that was previously screened for neurological and psychiatric conditions. In addition this study examines the semantic strategies used by these individuals to complete the fluency tasks. The sample included 105 healthy Hispanic individuals (age 55-98; 29 males and 76 females) divided into three education groups (11 years of education). Results showed that after controlling for age and gender, education has a main effect and is a strong predictor of performance in verbal fluency for the categories animals and clothing with increasing educational attainment being associated with higher category fluency scores and with more switches between categories. These findings suggest that the category fruit is less influenced by level of education than the other three semantic categories and may be a more appropriate test across different educational groups. Results from this study provide a reference for clinicians assessing verbal fluency in Spanish speaking populations.

from Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition

Neural differences in the processing of semantic relationships across cultures

The current study employed functional MRI to investigate the contribution of domain-general (e.g. executive functions) and domain-specific (e.g. semantic knowledge) processes to differences in semantic judgments across cultures. Previous behavioral experiments have identified cross-cultural differences in categorization, with East Asians preferring strategies involving thematic or functional relationships (e.g. cow-grass) and Americans preferring categorical relationships (e.g. cow-chicken). East Asians and American participants underwent functional imaging while alternating between categorical or thematic strategies to sort triads of words, as well as matching words on control trials. Many similarities were observed. However, across both category and relationship trials compared to match (control) trials, East Asians activated a frontal-parietal network implicated in controlled executive processes, whereas Americans engaged regions of the temporal lobes and the cingulate, possibly in response to conflict in the semantic content of information. The results suggest that cultures differ in the strategies employed to resolve conflict between competing semantic judgments.

from Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

The role of marriage in linguistic contact and variation: Two Hmong dialects in Texas

The role of marriage in linguistic contact and variation has been under-represented in sociolinguistic research. In any practice-based analysis, individual interactions and relationships are crucial. Therefore, marriage relationships – small but intense communities of practice – deserve variationist attention for their role in dialect construction and identity. This investigation of cross-dialectal marriages explores how dialect practices and choices are negotiated between partners. The results show the importance of viewing this linguistic behavior in terms of community ideology, culture, and individual choice, rather than primarily as a matter of the amount and intensity of contact. Likewise, the study shows how less commonly studied minority communities can bring new insights to the study of dialect acquisition and linguistic contact. Specifically, this investigation focuses on marriages between speakers of two different dialects of Hmong, a Hmong-Mien language of Southeast Asia. On the basis of home visits to ten Hmong immigrant households in Texas, the study analyzes lexical and phonetic contrasts and ethnographic interviews. Results suggest that macro-level shifts in Hmong social organization and gender roles are being reflected and constructed by gendered, marriage-level dialect practices. The linguistic behavior in these marriages is best viewed as a matter of community ideology in tension with individual choice: individual wives are choosing to challenge the traditional Hmong ideology regarding language behavior in cross-dialect marriages

from Journal of Sociolinguistics

Two cultures, one programme: Deaf Professors as subaltern?

Deaf instructors of American Sign Language have taught ASL in formal institutions of higher learning for several decades now, yet little is known of the challenges they face within those contexts. In this study, interviews with instructors of five ASL – English Interpreter Programs (AEIP) and four Deaf Studies Programs (DSP) in Canada identified a number of common themes in particular to the intersection of culture, power, and identity. Within a post-colonial framework differences were found in the discursive practices of the participants as Deaf or non-Deaf individuals. Evidence of systemic audism experienced by the Deaf staff was noted at a number of levels, perhaps due to the existence of a Grand Narrative of Hearing and a process of Worlding based on the ideology of the hearing majority. As a result perhaps some of the Deaf instructors were ascribed or adopted the role of subaltern, where they should have instead experienced substantial social capital. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

from Deafness and Education International

The myth of language universals: Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science

Talk of linguistic universals has given cognitive scientists the impression that languages are all built to a common pattern. In fact, there are vanishingly few universals of language in the direct sense that all languages exhibit them. Instead, diversity can be found at almost every level of linguistic organization. This fundamentally changes the object of enquiry from a cognitive science perspective. This target article summarizes decades of cross-linguistic work by typologists and descriptive linguists, showing just how few and unprofound the universal characteristics of language are, once we honestly confront the diversity offered to us by the world’s 6,000 to 8,000 languages. After surveying the various uses of “universal,” we illustrate the ways languages vary radically in sound, meaning, and syntactic organization, and then we examine in more detail the core grammatical machinery of recursion, constituency, and grammatical relations. Although there are significant recurrent patterns in organization, these are better explained as stable engineering solutions satisfying multiple design constraints, reflecting both cultural-historical factors and the constraints of human cognition.

Linguistic diversity then becomes the crucial datum for cognitive science: we are the only species with a communication system that is fundamentally variable at all levels. Recognizing the true extent of structural diversity in human language opens up exciting new research directions for cognitive scientists, offering thousands of different natural experiments given by different languages, with new opportunities for dialogue with biological paradigms concerned with change and diversity, and confronting us with the extraordinary plasticity of the highest human skills.

from Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Level of Education and Category Fluency Task among Spanish Speaking Elders: Number of Words, Clustering, and Switching Strategies

It has been well documented that education influences the individual’s performance on category fluency tasks but it is still unclear how this effect may differ across the different types of category tasks (i.e., animals, fruits, vegetables and clothing). This study aims (1) to analyze the effect of the level of education on four different types of category fluency tasks among elder Hispanic Americans and (2) to provide normative information on a population with different education levels that was previously screened for neurological and psychiatric conditions. In addition this study examines the semantic strategies used by these individuals to complete the fluency tasks. The sample included 105 healthy Hispanic individuals (age 55-98; 29 males and 76 females) divided into three education groups (11 years of education). Results showed that after controlling for age and gender, education has a main effect and is a strong predictor of performance in verbal fluency for the categories animals and clothing with increasing educational attainment being associated with higher category fluency scores and with more switches between categories. These findings suggest that the category fruit is less influenced by level of education than the other three semantic categories and may be a more appropriate test across different educational groups. Results from this study provide a reference for clinicians assessing verbal fluency in Spanish speaking populations.

from Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition

Semantic verbal fluency in two contrasting languages

This cross-linguistic study investigated Semantic Verbal Fluency (SVF) performance in 30 American English-speaking and 30 Finnish-speaking healthy elderly adults with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Despite the different backgrounds of the participant groups, remarkable similarities were found between the groups in the overall SVF performance in two semantic categories (animals and clothes), in the proportions of words produced within the first half (30 seconds) of the SVF tasks, and in the variety of words produced for the categories. These similarities emerged despite the difference in the mean length of words produced in the two languages (with Finnish words being significantly longer than English words). The few differences found between the groups concerned the types and frequencies of the 10 most common words generated for the categories. It was concluded that culture and language differences do not contribute significantly to variability in SVF performance in healthy elderly people.

from Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics

The Impact of Language on the Equivalence of Trail Making Tests: Findings from Three Pediatric Cohorts with Different Language Dominance

Abstract
The effect of different language backgrounds on performance and the functional equivalence of trail making tests were examined. The children’s version of the Trail Making Test A and B (TMT) and the Children’s Color Trails Test 1 and 2 (CCTT) were employed with right-handed (n = 79) participants. Children were classified into three groups according to language proficiency: Chinese dominant (CDL), Chinese-English bilinguals (CEB), and English dominant (EDL). In general, the CDL group exhibited the best performance on Children’s Color Trails 1 and 2 and Trail Making Test A and B. In examining the functional equivalence of TMT and CCTT, both tests were influenced by language background and intelligence but not gender. The results suggest that language backgrounds do exert a modest effect on trail making tests and that diverging executive demands on CCTT 2 versus TMT B may impact their functional equivalence with different groups of participants. Therefore, caution should be exercised when comparing or replacing CCTT with TMT in children from different and diverging language backgrounds.

from Applied Neuropsychology

Toward a Cultural Perspective and Understanding of the Disability and Deaf Experience in Special and Multicultural Education

This position paper provides a rationale for infusing cultural perspectives and understandings of the Disability and Deaf experiences into special and multicultural education teacher preparation programs. Substantial evidence of well-established features of the Disability community and Deaf community that meet definitional criteria for culture as conveyed in the multicultural education literature is presented. The extent that Disability and Deaf cultures have been reflected in special and multicultural education textbooks is addressed to validate the need for the incorporation of cultural perspectives of Disability and Deaf experiences into teacher preparation programs. A conspicuous absence of discussion about the culture of Disability and Deafness from the perspectives of members of these communities is reported. Implications of these findings for teacher preparation programs and for educational policy, practice, and research are discussed. Recommendations for the acknowledgement and support of cultural perspectives and understandings related to the Disability and Deaf experiences are offered.

from Remedial and Special Education

Cross-cultural variation of speech-accompanying gesture: A review

This article reviews the literature on cross-cultural variation of gestures. Four factors governing the variation were identified. The first factor is the culture-specific convention for form-meaning associations. This factor is involved in well-known cross-cultural differences in emblem gestures (e.g., the OK-sign), as well as pointing gestures. The second factor is culture-specific spatial cognition. Representational gestures (i.e., iconic and deictic gestures) that express spatial contents or metaphorically express temporal concepts differ across cultures, reflecting the cognitive differences in how direction, relative location and different axes in space are conceptualised and processed. The third factor is linguistic differences. Languages have different lexical and syntactic resources to express spatial information. This linguistic difference is reflected in how gestures express spatial information. The fourth factor is culture-specific gestural pragmatics, namely the principles under which gesture is used in communication. The culture-specificity in politeness of gesture use, the role of nodding in conversation, and the use of gesture space are discussed.

from Language and Cognitive Processes

Examining Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis as One of the Main Views on the Relationship Between Language and Thought

from the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

Abstract One of those features that set human societies apart from animal societies is the use of language. Language is a vital part of every human culture and is a powerful social tool that we master at an early age. A second feature of humans is our ability to solve complex problems. For centuries philosophers have questioned whether these two abilities are related and, if so, what the nature of the relationship between language and thought is. At the beginning of the last century psychologists joined this debate and it is a topic that is currently generating a lot of research. Another factor in the study of language and thought is the role of culture. When we study a language from another country we see that it is not just the words and grammar that are different but the customs and traditions as well. Even the ideas of that culture and the way of dealing with life can be different. There are a number of views on the nature of the relationship between language and thought. But here we are going to explore one of those views, the linguistic relativity hypothesis (LRH), concerning that the language a speaker uses influences the way the speaker thinks.

Toward an Understanding of the Interplay Between Culture, Language, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication

from Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication

The discovery of appropriate forms and function for linguistic competence in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is linked to an understanding of the complexity of culture, cultural choices, the impact of acculturation on practices, societal norms and perceptions, and persons’ with complex communication needs (PWCCN) basic human rights to full inclusion in social, educational, economic, and personal experiences on an everyday basis. This article focuses on these topics in order to promote further discussion regarding the influence of culture on the practice of AAC.

Community and Culture in Intercultural Language Learning

from the Australian Review of Applied Linguistics

This paper addresses changing meanings attached to the concept of community in languages education in the school setting in Australia. The change consists of a shift from “community” as a necessary definitional category, created in the mid 1970s to mark the recognition of languages other than English used in the Australian community to a recognition in the current context of increasingly mobility of people and ideas of the need to problematise the concept of “community” towards working with the complexity of the lived dynamic languages and cultures in the repertoires of students. Intercultural language learning is discussed as a way of thinking about communities in languages education in current times. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]