Verb production in agrammatic aphasia: The influence of semantic class and argument structure properties on generalisation

Sandra L. Schneider*, Cynthia K. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Background: Some individuals with agrammatic aphasia have difficulty producing verbs when naming and generating sentences (Miceli, Silveri, Villa, & Caramazza, 1984; Saffran, Schwartz, & Marin, 1980; Zingeser & Berndt, 1990). And when verbs are produced there is an over-reliance on verbs requiring simple argument structure arrangements (Thompson, Lange, Schneider, & Shapiro, 1997; Thompson, Shapiro, Schneider, & Tait, 1994). Verbs, as argument-taking elements, show especially complex semantic and argument structure properties. This study investigated the role these properties have on verb production in individuals with agrammatic aphasia. Aim: This treatment study examined the extent to which semantic class and argument structure properties of verbs influenced the ability of seven individuals with agrammatic Broca's aphasia to retrieve verbs and then use them in correct sentence production. Verbs from two semantic classes and two argument structure categories were trained using either a semantic or an argument structure verb retrieval treatment. Specifically, acquisition and generalisation to trained and untrained verbs within and across semantic and argument structure categories was examined. In addition, the influence of verb production on each participant's sentence production was also examined. Methods & procedures: Utilising a single-subject crossover design in combination with a multiple baseline design across subjects and behaviours, seven individuals with agrammatic aphasia were trained to retrieve verbs with specific argument structures from two semantic classes under two treatment conditions - semantic verb retrieval treatment and verb argument structure retrieval treatment. Treatment was provided on two-place and three-place motion or change of state verbs, counterbalanced across subjects and behaviours. A total of 102 verbs, depicted in black and white drawings, were utilised in the study, divided equally into motion and change of state verbs (semantic classes) and one-place, two-place, and three-place verbs (argument structure arrangements). Verbs were controlled for syllable length, picturability, phonological complexity, and frequency. These same stimulus items were used to elicit the sentence production probe. Outcomes & results: Both treatments revealed significant effects in facilitating acquisition of verb retrieval in all participants. Minimal within and across verb category generalisation occurred. However, it was found that as retrieval of verbs improved, grammatical sentence production improved. This occurred without direct treatment on sentence production. Conclusions: The results of this study lend support for treatment focused on verb production with individuals with agrammatic aphasia and support the use of linguistic-based treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-241
Number of pages29
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003

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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