The production of adjectives in narratives by individuals with primary progressive aphasia

Matthew Walenski*, Thomas Sostarics, M. Marsel Mesulam, Cynthia K. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adjectives (e.g., hungry) are an important part of language, but have been little studied in individuals with impaired language. Adjectives are used in two different ways in English: attributively, to modify a noun (the hungry dog); or predicatively, after a verb (the dog is hungry). Attributive adjectives have a more complex grammatical structure than predicative adjectives, and may therefore be particularly prone to disruption in individuals with grammatical impairments. We investigated adjective production in three subtypes of primary progressive aphasia (PPA: agrammatic, semantic, logopenic), as well as in agrammatic stroke aphasia and a group of healthy control participants. Participants produced narratives based on picture books, and we coded every adjective they produced for its syntactic structure. Compared to healthy controls, the two agrammatic groups, but not the other two patient groups, produced significantly fewer attributive adjectives per sentence. All four patient groups were similar to controls for their rate of predicative adjective production. In addition, we found a significant correlation in the agrammatic PPA participants between their rate of producing attributive adjectives and impaired production of sentences with complex syntactic structure (subject cleft sentences like It was the boy that chased the girl); no such correlation was found for predicative adjectives. Irrespective of structure, we examined the lexical characteristics of the adjectives that were produced, including length, frequency, semantic diversity and neighborhood density. Overall, the lexical characteristics of the produced adjectives were largely consistent with the language profile of each group. In sum, the results suggest that attributive adjectives present a particular challenge for individuals with agrammatic language production, and add a new dimension to the description of agrammatism. Our results further suggest that attributive adjectives may be a fruitful target for improved treatment and recovery of agrammatic language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101179
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Adjectives
  • Agrammatism
  • Aphasia
  • Narrative production
  • Primary progressive aphasia
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'The production of adjectives in narratives by individuals with primary progressive aphasia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this