Assessment of verb and sentence processing deficits in stroke-induced aphasia: the Italian version of the Northwestern Assessment of Verbs and Sentences (NAVS-I)

Elena Barbieri*, Veronica Alessio, Ester Zanobio, Ilaria Scola, Claudio Luzzatti, Cynthia K. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Northwestern Assessment of Verbs and Sentences (NAVS) assesses verb and sentence production and comprehension in aphasia. Results from the original English version and from its adaptation to German have shown that the NAVS is able to capture effects of verb-argument structure (VAS) complexity (i.e., lower accuracy for two- and three-argument vs. one-argument verbs) and syntactic complexity (i.e., lower accuracy for non-canonical vs. canonical sentences) in both agrammatic participants and individuals with fluent forms of aphasia. The NAVS has been recently adapted to Italian (NAVS-I) and tested on a group of healthy participants, with results showing longer reaction times to complex vs. simple verbs and sentences. Aims: The present study aimed to test the ability of NAVS-I to i) capture verb/sentence production and comprehension deficits in Italian-speaking individuals with agrammatism or with fluent aphasia, and ii) differentiate individuals with aphasia from healthy age-matched participants, with the overall goal to validate its use in clinical practice. Methods & Procedures: Forty-four healthy participants and 28 individuals with aphasia (10 with agrammatic speech production) were administered the NAVS-I, which includes tasks assessing production and comprehension of verbs requiring one, two or three arguments, as well as production and comprehension of canonical and non-canonical sentences. Outcomes & Results: On the Verb Naming Task (VNT), better production of one- (vs. two- and three-) argument verbs was found in the agrammatic group, whereas, verb production in the fluent group was solely predicted by word length and imageability. No effects of argument optionality (i.e., greater difficulty for optionally transitive verbs than for 1-argument verbs) were found. Sentence-level tasks found no differences between the agrammatic and the fluent group in production or comprehension of both canonical and non-canonical sentences; rather, sentence comprehension accuracy was predicted by demographic variables and by aphasia severity. At the individual level, performance on the NAVS-I was significantly different from that of healthy speakers in 26/28 patients. Conclusions: Data show that the NAVS-I is able to capture effects of argument structure complexity in verb production, and effects of syntactic complexity in sentence production and comprehension. In addition, our results point to verb production as the task with greater capability to differentiate agrammatism from other (fluent) forms of aphasia. The study provides support for the use of the NAVS-I in the diagnosis of aphasia, as it is able to detect language deficits at the individual level, even in participants with mild (residual) forms of aphasia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-543
Number of pages34
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2024


  • Agrammatism
  • Assessment
  • Non-canonical word order
  • Sentence processing
  • Verb argument structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • LPN and LVN


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