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date: 17 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Studies in the 1970s and early 1980s demonstrated impaired sentence comprehension in conjunction with good single word comprehension in some aphasic patients. These findings generated a great deal of excitement among aphasiologists and psycholinguists because they seemed to provide support for linguistic theories that hypothesised a system of rules for specifying grammatical well-formedness which was independent of semantics. A number of findings quickly followed these initial findings which caused problems for interpreting the patient data in terms of a deficit to an independent syntactic processing module. The complications that surfaced have given rise to heated debates concerning the proper interpretation of sentence comprehension deficits—mirroring to some extent the debates in linguistics on generative vs. non-generative grammar and in psycholinguistics on syntax-first vs. constraint-based sentence processing theories. This article summarizes results from case studies on language deficits associated with aphasia. It also reviews the evidence regarding the complementary claim that syntactic comprehension deficits in patients without obvious syntactic difficulties in production could be attributed to a short-term memory deficit.

Keywords: aphasia, sentence comprehension, semantics, syntactic processing, psycholinguistics, syntactic comprehension deficits, short-term memory

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