Language variation as symptom of dementia,1985- 2016 study

Language variation from writing styles is a possible effect of cognitive decline. There exists a link of a writer reverting to an original writing style from a current one when managing a cognitive decline ailment.

Dementia influenced language variation

Some researchers from the University of Toronto observed the writing styles of Vivian White in her three decades of writing, from 1985 to 2016. 

The researchers found that Whites’ style of writing change after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, characterized by dementia.

Studying Whites’ diary entries over the 31 years, the researchers noted the absence of the first-person pronoun “I” in her handwritten contents and a subsequent inclusion after the diagnosis.

This discovery suggests the existence of a language variation between primary languages and those learned later in life with people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the researchers, this observed phenomenon applies to write styles learned later in life with primary forms of writing.

The study on the diary entries of Vivian White revealed the language variation on the sentence “Made cranberry muffins,” which was Whites’ form of writing before the diagnosis.

After diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease, White reverted to writing the sentence as thus: “I made cranberry muffins,” including the first-person pronoun “I.”

Diary writing style

Diary writing involves making notes in discrete entries arranged by date. It is typical of the writing style to omit ‘I’ in some locations, according to Sali Tagliamonte, a professor in the Department of Linguistics.

Diary writing is a learned behavior acquired later in life than the primary form of writing, which is easily lost with dementia ailments, as hypothesized by the researchers.

Following the recent findings of language variation, Tagliamonte highlighted the importance of observational studies in illuminating cognitive development.

The researcher called for more linguistics to further study language usage with persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

A co-researcher mentioned that current language studies are more focused on young speakers’ innovative choice of words. Longitudinal studies are rarely done, said Katherine Pabst.

The linguistic researchers presented this discovery in the annual New Ways of Analyzing Variation conference, held October 10-12 at the University of Oregon.