This chapter presents a tutorial review of discourse processing and aging. Of all the cognitive activities in which one engages over a lifetime, none has more relevance for intellectual and social functioning than the comprehension, memory and production of language. There is no age at which these skills become outdated or useless, and no modern-day cohort that is not daily bombarded with spoken prose and written text. Much of the language one encounters requires a prompt reply, and the consequences of responding inappropriately or belatedly to such a message, be it telephone gossip or a fat manilla envelope from the IRS, can be severe. This array of processing operations has been conceptualized as having a “vertical” arrangement in the sense that raw sensory input is fed from the bottom, up through working memory, while knowledge filters from the top, down through working memory to provide a framework for structuring the information held there. The notion of “bottom-up” processing implies that there must be some point at which there is a representation that is a verbatim, more or less literal reproduction of the input.
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