Journal List > Dement Neurocogn Disord > v.13(3) > 1120729

Dement Neurocogn Disord. 2014 Sep;13(3):51-62. Korean.
Published online Sep 30, 2014.
© 2014 Korean Dementia Association
Characteristics of Language Comprehension in Normal Elderly and the Mild Cognitive Impaired
Soo Jung Lee, M.S.,* Seung Jin Lee, M.S.,*, Ji Yeon Song, M.S.,* and HyangHee Kim, Ph.D.*,
*Graduate Program in Speech and Language Pathology, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Speech and Language Habilitation, Daelim University College, Anyang, Korea.
Department and Research Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.

Address for correspondence: HyangHee Kim, Ph.D. Graduate Program in Speech and Language Pathology, Yonsei University College of Medicine, 50 Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 250-752, Korea. Tel: +82-2-2228-3900, Fax: +82-2-2227-7984, Email:
Received May 30, 2014; Revised Aug 24, 2014; Accepted Aug 24, 2014.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



Healthy aging is characterized by declines in language function and it is important to differentiate language comprehension difficulties due to pathological aging (i.e., mild cognitive impairment) from those due to normal aging. The purposes of this study were to review the literature on characteristics of language comprehension in normal elderly and the mild cognitive impaired, and to compare their performances on different language domains.


A comprehensive literature search identified numerous studies on language comprehension in both groups, and we analyzed them according to each language domain.


The results indicated that the normal elderly show more difficulties in the comprehension of grammatically or lexically complex sentences and in text/discourse comprehension than words or simple sentences. Compared to normal elderly, MCI shows significantly lower performance on text/discourse comprehension and other tasks demanding higher cognitive function. In both groups, there are many different factors affecting language comprehension, such as hearing sensitivity, speech rate, literacy, and cognition.


The results may provide insight into useful language comprehension tasks for differential diagnosis between normal aging and MCI. Further research on various compensatory strategies in daily life to facilitate language comprehension for both groups is warranted.

Keywords: Normal elderly; Mild cognitive impairment; Language comprehension


Fig. 1
Bottom-up and top-down processing of auditory input (adapted from Edwards, 2007).
Click for larger image

Appendix 1

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