Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

June M. Tuma


This study sought to examine the interrelationship of cognition and language in the clinical syndrome of depression. It was proposed that the types of cognitive differences in depression proposed by Beck and other cognitive theorists would be reflected in language usage, and especially in syntax. Using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), subjects were classified as either depressed (BDI $\geq$ 16) or non-depressed (BDI $\leq$ 4). Subjects were asked to speak into a tape recorder for 3-5 minutes on each of three stimuli, a positive event, a negative event, and a neutral opinion stimulus. The language samples were then analyzed using the Syntactic Language Computer Analysis program (SLCA-III) which generated 36 variables from the samples. From the ANOVAS done on the 36 variables, 6 hypothesized differences between depressed and non-depressed subjects were found to be significant. Depressed persons used greater frequencies of (a) intransitive verbs and the passive voice; (b) state of being verbs; (c) negated information units (nouns); and (d) unsensed (abstract) nouns. Non-depressed persons were found to use greater numbers of qualifiers in general and to use more non-negated qualifiers in specific. A forward stepwise discriminant function analysis used state of being verbs, negated nouns, and unsensed (abstract) nouns to correctly classify 72% of the subjects according to group membership.