Evaluation of Linguistic Variations by College Students With and Without Head Injuries

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In an evaluation of the impact of spoken language on listeners, the effects of prior head injury, speech register, and active vs. passive listening were examined among 56 students who had experienced head injuries and 55 students who had not been injured. Subjects rated the degree to which they liked the speaker and also the extent to which groups of negative and positive adjectives described the speaker. Analysis of variance revealed four significant interactions. First, there were no differences between students with and without injuries in how much they liked speakers using the normal register, but students without injuries liked the motherese speakers more than did students with injuries. Second, raters liked motherese speakers less when addressed directly (active/direct listening) than when they were not being directly addressed (passive/indirect listening). Third, while normal speakers received the same negative adjective ratings from both subject groups, motherese speakers were viewed much more negatively by the subjects with injuries. Lastly, direct listeners gave higher positive adjective ratings to speakers using the normal register, while indirect listeners rated motherese speakers more positively. These results suggest that therapists should avoid using the motherese register when addressing clients with head injuries. While people without injuries may think it is appropriate to use motherese when addressing people with injuries, no group preferred the motherese speech when it was directed toward themselves. Rehabilitation workers need to be careful, not only in how they write about people with disabilities but also in how they speak to them.

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