Agrammatism in a case-inflected language: Comprehension of agent-object relations

  • Smith S
  • Mimica I
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Abstract

Yugoslav agrammatic aphasics and normal control subjects were tested for comprehension of agent-object relations in a series of simple Serbo-Croatian sentences consisting of two nouns (N) and a transitive action verb (V). The availability of nominative and accusative case inflections and a semantic contrast was systematically varied across sentences. Sentences were also varied with respect to the two sequences NVN and VNN. An analysis of subjects' agent-object assignments yielded the following results: While Broca's aphasics did show some sensitivity to case inflections, their ability to process such cues was greatly impaired relative to normal subjects, for whom morphological cues were almost completely deterministic. To a lesser degree, Broca's aphasics were impaired in their ability to employ a strategy of "choose the first noun as agent" when case inflections and semantic contrasts were not available. While Broca's aphasics showed no impairment in their ability to exploit semantic contrasts for agent-object assignment, there was no absolute compensatory increase in the degree to which they relied on semantic cues. Differences in word sequence had no effect on agent-object assignment in Broca's aphasics. Finally, Broca's aphasics frequently responded unsystematically when cues to agent-object relations occurred in isolation or in competition with one another, but when there was a convergence of cues their performance approached that of normal subjects. This result was interpreted in terms of an accessing hypothesis. © 1984.

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Authors

  • Stanley D. Smith

  • Ivo Mimica

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