The Aphasiology Archive
University Library System, University of Pittsburgh

Effects of syntactic and semantic argument structure on sentence repetition in agrammatism: Things we can learn from particles and prepositions

Cohen, Francine and Milsark, Gary and Martin, Nadine
Effects of syntactic and semantic argument structure on sentence repetition in agrammatism: Things we can learn from particles and prepositions. Aphasiology, 25(6-7), 2011, pages 736-747.

This is the latest version of this eprint.


Background: Sentence production impairment in aphasia has been attributed to several possible sources that are not mutually exclusive. Linguistic accounts often attribute the difficulty to the complexity of a verb's syntactic and/or semantic argument structure. Cognitive processing accounts emphasise the reduced processing capacity observed in agrammatic aphasia, which in turn has been attributed to reduced semantic short-term memory (STM) or slowed processing.

Aims: In this study we used verb particles and prepositions to investigate effects of differences in syntactic and semantic argument structure on sentence repetition in aphasia. We predicted that verb particles and sentences containing verb-particle constructions would be easier to repeat than prepositions and prepositional transitive sentences, as the former have a less-complex semantic and syntactic argument structure than the latter. Also, semantic and phonological spans were assessed to determine if a reduction in either capacity correlates with repetition ability.

Methods & Procedures: Participants were eight individuals with chronic aphasia. The experimental task was repetition of transitive sentences balanced for length and lexical content containing either verb particles or prepositional object structures. Accuracy of sentence repetition and repetition of verb particles and prepositions within sentences was examined. We calculated the effect of structural complexity on the sentence repetition task as the difference between proportion correct of verb-particle constructions and prepositional transitives. Semantic and phonological STM spans and word spans were also assessed and correlated with this measure of the structural complexity effect on sentence repetition.

Outcomes & Results: Verb-particle sentences were repeated correctly significantly more often than prepositional transitive sentences, and within those sentences verbal particles were repeated correctly significantly more often than prepositions. The effect was strongly associated with fluency scores: it was present in participants with low fluency scores, but not in those with high fluency scores. The phonological, but not the semantic, STM probe span measure correlated with both the difference in accurate repetition of verb-particle and prepositional transitive sentences and the particles and prepositions within those sentences.

Conclusions: Results indicate that differences in argument structure of particle and preposition constructions influence sentence repetition in agrammatic aphasia. The finding that lower fluency scores are associated with poorer performance on more complex structures suggests that this effect is associated with agrammatism. The impact of these structural distinctions between particles and prepositions should be taken into account during development of treatment stimuli for those with agrammatism.

EPrint Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:Agrammatism, Syntactic semantic argument structure, Verb particles and propositions
ID Code:2232
Conference:Clinical Aphasiology Conference: Clinical Aphasiology Conference (2010 : 40th : Isle of Palms, SC : May 23-27, 2010)
Alternative Locations:
DOI or Unique Handle:10.1080/02687038.2010.537348
Additional Information:This article is based on a paper originally presented at the CAC2010 Conference. Permission to view the full-text article is subject to the publisher's access restrictions.

Available Versions of this Item