Syntactic and morphosyntactic processing in stroke-induced and primary progressive aphasia

Cynthia K. Thompson, Aya Meltzer-Asscher*, Soojin Cho, Jiyeon Lee, Christina Wieneke, Sandra Weintraub, M. Marsel Mesulam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The paper reports findings derived from three experiments examining syntactic and morphosyntactic processing in individuals with agrammatic and logopenic variants of primary progressive aphasia (PPA-G and PPA-L, respectively) and stroke-induced agrammatic and anomic aphasia (StrAg and StrAn, respectively). We examined comprehension and production of canonical and noncanonical sentence structures and production of tensed and nontensed verb forms using constrained tasks in experiments 1 and 2, using the Northwestern Assessment of Verbs and Sentences (NAVS [57]) and the Northwestern Assessment of Verb Inflection (NAVI, Thompson and Lee, experimental version) test batteries, respectively. Experiment 3 examined free narrative samples, focusing on syntactic and morphosyntactic measures, i.e. production of grammatical sentences, noun to verb ratio, open-class to closed-class word production ratio, and the production of correctly inflected verbs. Results indicate that the two agrammatic groups (i.e., PPA-G and StrAg) pattern alike on syntactic and morphosyntactic measures, showing more impaired noncanonical compared to canonical sentence comprehension and production and greater difficulties producing tensed compared to nontensed verb forms. Their spontaneous speech also contained significantly fewer grammatical sentences and correctly inflected verbs, and they produced a greater proportion of nouns compared to verbs, than healthy speakers. In contrast, PPA-L and StrAn individuals did not display these deficits, and performed significantly better than the agrammatic groups on these measures. The findings suggest that agrammatism, whether induced by degenerative disease or stroke, is associated with characteristic deficits in syntactic and morphosyntactic processing. We therefore recommend that linguistically sophisticated tests and narrative analysis procedures be used to systematically evaluate the linguistic ability of individuals with PPA, contributing to our understanding of the language impairments of different PPA variants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-54
Number of pages20
JournalBehavioural Neurology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Aphasia
  • agrammatism
  • narrative speech
  • primary progressive aphasia
  • syntactic processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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