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Lexical, morphological, and syntactic aspects of verb production in agrammatic aphasics.

ABSTRACT

Agrammatic aphasics do not exhibit a normal pattern of verb production; their spontaneous speech is said to lack verbs, and the verbs that are produced lack inflection. The current article focuses on the lexical, morphological, and syntactic aspects of verbs in spontaneous speech of a group of Dutch agrammatic speakers. Dutch is a so-called verb-second language in which the finite verb in the matrix clause is in the second position and nonfinite verbs are in the final position. The analysis shows that agrammatic speakers are sensitive to this relation; they virtually never produce finite verbs in the final clause position or nonfinite verbs in the second position. Nevertheless, they produce significantly fewer finite clauses than do non-brain-damaged speakers. The diversity of the lexical verbs in spontaneous speech is also lower than in non-brain-damaged speakers, but this is due to less variation in the finite lexical verbs. Hence, it is suggested that the problems with verbs in Dutch agrammatic spontaneous speech are restricted to finite lexical verbs. In an experiment, it was evaluated whether these problems with finite lexical verbs are caused by a morphological deficit or a syntactic deficit. The data show that a syntactic deficit is more likely; Dutch agrammatic speakers produce finite verbs in the base-generated position (i.e., in the embedded clause) significantly better than finite verbs that have been moved to the second position (i.e., in the matrix clause). From these data, the authors conclude that in Dutch, a verb-second language, agrammatic aphasics demonstrate specific problems with moved finite verbs, although they are perfectly aware of the relation between verb position and verb finiteness. This syntactic problem affects not only the proportion of finite verbs but also the diversity of the verbs and, hence, communicative contents.