Tiana Cowan is a third year doctoral candidate in the Communication Sciences and Disorders and Language Science dual title program. Prior to starting the doctoral program at Penn State, she worked clinically as a speech-language pathologist in Houston, Texas. Her experience is reflected in her research, which nicely balances prioritizing theoretically driven inquiry and clinical outcomes. The focus of her work to date has been on improving the identification of child language disorders in monolingual and bilingual populations.
Tiana will be working remotely with Dr. Sharon Unsworth at Radboud University to expand her dissertation project. Sentence repetition (SR) is regarded as an excellent diagnostic tool for identifying language disorders and is commonly used in clinical practice. Despite its popularity, little is understood about the underlying mechanisms that support accurate repetition. The project will evaluate how the content of sentences influences second language SR accuracy to answer questions, such as: Will second language learners of English be less accurate at repeating words that are abstract and low frequency in English compared to concrete and high frequency ones? Are lexical and semantic effects more pronounced in syntactically complex sentences? Will these effects be modulated by exposure? Understanding how individual-level and sentence-level characteristics interact to influence SR performance is important to ensure the results are interpreted accurately in the context of clinical evaluations.