Agrammatic aphasic subjects' comprehension of subject and object extracted Wh questions

Cynthia K. Thompson*, Mary E. Tait, Kirrie J. Ballard, Stephen C. Fix

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


This study attempted to replicate the unusual wh question comprehension pattern of Hickok and Avrutin's (1996) subjects who showed an expected subject/object extraction asymmetry for which NP questions, but not for who questions. We also examined comprehension of what and which one questions, which are similar to who and which NP questions, respectively, and we examined passivized wh questions in order to test predictions of Grodzinsky's (1995) restrictive theory of trace deletion, the Trace-Based Account (TBA). Results, using both a figurine manipulation task and a picture pointing task, showed that only one of four agrammatic (Broca's) aphasic subjects showed the pattern reported by Hickok and Avrutin and that this pattern extended to comprehension of what and which one questions. One of the subjects showed subject/object asymmetry for all wh questions tested, as would be predicted by the original trace deletion hypothesis (Grodzinsky, 1984), and two subjects showed neither pattern. None of our subjects demonstrated ability to comprehend passivized wh questions as predicted by the TBA. We discuss our findings in terms of the lack of homogeneity of wh question comprehension among individuals with agrammatic aphasia and we explore alternatives to the syntactic explanation for differences between who and which NP question comprehension advanced by Hickok and Avrutin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-187
Number of pages19
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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