Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Communication Sciences & Disorders (MSCSD)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Health Sciences


Communication Sciences & Disorders

First Advisor

Dr. Gilson Capilouto

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Marshall


This study investigated the lifespan influences of task type and working memory on the syntactic complexity of narrative discourse production. Participants included 180 healthy adults across three age cohorts: 20-29 years (Young Group), 60-69 years (Older Group) and 75-89 years (Elderly Group). Participants completed standardized working memory measures and four discourse tasks (single/sequential picture description, storytelling and personal recount). Syntactic complexity for each sample was measured via clausal density yielding a complexity index. For analysis, participants were placed into one of two groups based on working memory scores above (High Working Memory Group) or below (Low Working Memory Group) the mean. Significant differences in syntactic complexity between working memory groups were found for the single picture description and the storytelling; individuals in the high working memory group produced language with greater syntactic complexity. When the effects of cohort and working memory were investigated with a two-way ANOVA, working memory group was no longer significantly related to syntactic complexity. However, there was a significant relationship between cohort and syntactic complexity for the single picture description and storytelling tasks. Analyses indicate that the relationships between syntactic complexity, age, and working memory are dependent on task type.