Some individuals with brain damage have difficulty producing grammatically correct sentences -- a phenomenon known as agrammatic aphasia. But why are people with brain damage omitting grammatical elements from their speech?
A new usage-based theory of what grammar is suggests that people with agrammatic aphasia need to prioritise their limited resources and thus concentrate on the primary and core elements of an utterance, the so-called lexical elements such as full verbs, nouns and adjectives. Grammatical elements like inflections and auxiliary verbs, however, only convey secondary information and are therefore dispensable.
Study - Journal - Neurolinguistics - Part - Byurakn
In a recent study published in Journal of Neurolinguistics as part of Byurakn Ishkhanyan's PhD thesis Grammar-Lexicon Distinction in a Neurocognitive Context, spontaneous speech collected from six French speakers with agrammatic aphasia and nine non-injured controls were used to test the theory.
"Prior to the speech analyses, we categorized 137 French pronouns as either lexical or grammatical based on whether they could stand alone or not -- grammatical elements like auxiliary verbs or inflections cannot stand alone but will always need other elements to attach themselves to," says University of Copenhagen linguist Byurakn Ishkhanyan and continues:
Theory - Predicts - Speakers - Pronouns - Group
"As the usage-based theory predicts, four out of six speakers produced significantly fewer grammatical pronouns than the non-injured group. The two remaining individuals spoke more fluently than the others, which may explain why they did not differ...
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