A study of syntactic processing in aphasia I: Behavioral (psycholinguistic) aspects

David Caplan, Gloria Waters, Gayle DeDe, Jennifer Michaud, Amanda Reddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


This paper presents the results of a study of syntactically based comprehension in aphasic patients. We studied 42 patients with aphasia secondary to left hemisphere strokes and 25 control participants. We measured off-line, end-of-sentence, performance (accuracy and reaction time) in two tasks that require comprehension-enactment and sentence-picture matching-and in grammaticality judgment, with whole sentence auditory presentation. We also used sentence-picture matching and grammaticality judgment as tasks in two self-paced listening studies with the same patients to measure on-line performance. In each task and presentation format, we presented sentences that tested the ability to assign and interpret three structural contrasts chosen to examine different basic syntactic operations: actives and passives, subject and object extracted relative clauses, and reflexive pronouns and matched sentences without these elements. We examined these behavioral data to determine patterns of impairment in individual patients and in groups of patients, using correlational analyses, factor analyses, and analyses of variance. The results showed that almost no individual patients had stable deficits referable to the ability to interpret individual syntactic structures, that a variety of structural features contributed to sentence processing complexity both on-line and off-line, that correct responses were associated with normal on-line and errors with abnormal performance, and that the major determinant of performance is a factor that affected performance on all sentence types. The results indicate that the major cause of aphasic impairments of syntactically based comprehension are intermittent reductions in the processing capacity available for syntactic, interpretive, and task-related operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-150
Number of pages48
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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