Automatic processing of wh- and NP-movement in agrammatic aphasia: Evidence from eyetracking

Michael Walsh Dickey*, Cynthia K. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Individuals with agrammatic Broca's aphasia show deficits in comprehension of non-canonical wh-movement and NP-movement sentences. Previous work using eyetracking has found that agrammatic and unimpaired listeners show very similar patterns of automatic processing for wh-movement sentences. The current study attempts to replicate this finding for sentences with wh-movement (in object relatives in the current study) and to extend it to sentences with NP-movement (passives). For wh-movement sentences, aphasic and control participants' eye-movements differed most dramatically in late regions of the sentence and post-offset, with aphasic participants exhibiting lingering attention to a salient but grammatically impermissible competitor. The eye-movement differences between correct and incorrect trials for wh-movement sentences were similar, with incorrect trials also exhibiting competition from an impermissible interpretation late in the sentence. Furthermore, the two groups exhibited similar eye-movement patterns in response to passive NP-movement sentences, but showed little evidence of gap-filling for passives. The results suggest that aphasic and unimpaired individuals may generate similar representations during comprehension, but that aphasics are highly vulnerable to interference from alternative interpretations (Ferreira, F. (2003). The misinterpretation of noncanonical sentences. Cognitive Psychology, 47(2), 164-203).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-583
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Agrammatism
  • Aphasia
  • Eyetracking
  • Filler-gap dependencies
  • NP-movement
  • Sentence comprehension
  • wh-movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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