Formulaic language in Alzheimer's disease

Kelly Ann Bridges, Diana Van Lancker Sidtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Studies of productive language in Alzheimer's disease (AD) have focused on formal testing of syntax and semantics but have directed less attention to naturalistic discourse and formulaic language. Clinical observations suggest that individuals with AD retain the ability to produce formulaic language long after other cognitive abilities have deteriorated. Aims: This study quantifies production of formulaic expressions in the spontaneous speech of individuals with AD. Persons with early and late onset forms of the disease were compared. Methods & Procedures: Conversational language samples of individuals with early (n = 5) and late onset (n = 6) AD and healthy controls (n = 5) were analysed to determine whether formulaic language, as measured by the number of words in formulaic expressions, differs between groups. Outcomes & Results: Results indicate that individuals with AD, regardless of age of onset, used significantly more formulaic expressions than healthy controls. The early and late onset AD groups did not differ on formulaic language measures. Conclusions: These findings contribute to a dual process model of cerebral function, which proposes differing processing principles for formulaic and novel expressions. In this model, subcortical areas, which remain intact into late in the progression of Alzheimer's disease, play an important role in the production of formulaic language. Applications to clinical practice include identifying preserved formulaic language and providing informed counselling to patient and family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-810
Number of pages12
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Dual-process model
  • Formulaic language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • LPN and LVN


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