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Real-time production of unergative and unaccusative sentences in normal and agrammatic speakers: An eyetracking study

Lee, Jiyeon and Thompson, Cynthia K.
Real-time production of unergative and unaccusative sentences in normal and agrammatic speakers: An eyetracking study. Aphasiology, 25(6-7), 2011, pages 813-825.

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Background: Speakers with agrammatic aphasia have greater difficulty producing unaccusative (float) compared to unergative (bark) verbs (Kegl, 1995; Lee & Thompson, 2004; Thompson, 2003), putatively because the former involve movement of the theme to the subject position from the post-verbal position, and are therefore more complex than the latter (Burzio, 1986; Perlmutter, 1978). However, it is unclear if and how sentence production processes are affected by the linguistic distinction between these two types of verbs in normal and impaired speakers.

Aims: This study examined real-time production of sentences with unergative (the black dog is barking) vs unaccusative (the black tube is floating) verbs in healthy young speakers and individuals with agrammatic aphasia, using eyetracking.

Methods & Procedures: Participants' eye movements and speech were recorded while they produced a sentence using computer displayed written stimuli (e.g., black, dog, is barking).

Outcomes & Results: Both groups of speakers produced numerically fewer unaccusative sentences than unergative sentences. However, the eye movement data revealed significant differences in fixations between the adjective (black) vs the noun (tube) when producing unaccusatives, but not when producing unergatives for both groups. Interestingly, whereas healthy speakers showed this difference during speech, speakers with agrammatism showed this difference prior to speech onset.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the human sentence production system differentially processes unaccusatives vs unergatives. This distinction is preserved in individuals with agrammatism; however, the time course of sentence planning appears to differ from healthy speakers (Lee & Thompson, 2010).

EPrint Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:Agrammatism, Unaccusative verbs, Eyetracking, Sentence production
ID Code:2237
Conference:Clinical Aphasiology Conference: Clinical Aphasiology Conference (2010 : 40th : Isle of Palms, SC : May 23-27, 2010)
Alternative Locations:
DOI or Unique Handle:10.1080/02687038.2010.542563
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.

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