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Syntactic features in agrammatic production Sanchez, Monica Eszter


This thesis examines the nature of the language deficit called agrammatism, the linguistic syndrome usually associated with Broca's aphasia. I focus on the narratives produced by agrammatics of five different languages, English, Dutch, German, French, and Italian, the transcripts of which are collected in Menn & Obler (1990). My goal is to account for the omission and substitution errors that characterize agrammatic production. Agrammatic utterances with omissions display appropriate word order. Among these are structures that include adverbs, negation, and verb-second matrix clauses. These structures are derived by movement to functional projections. I argue that agrammatic clauses include minimally three functional projections above VP. I propose that the full array of functional projections is present in agrammatic speech. I argue that the most concise account of agrammatic production is one in which Universal Grammar governs agrammatic speech. Although any syntactic category may be omitted, not all categories are omitted with the same frequency. Lexical categories are better retained than functional categories; and nominal categories are better retained than verbal categories. I propose a Principle of Robustness whereby the more Formal features a category is specified for, the more Robust it is. The net result is that the more features a syntactic category is specified for, the more likely it is retrieved. This results in the following Retrieval Hierarchy: N > V, A , D > P, T, K > C, where ">" means "better retained than". In addition to omissions, agrammatic speech includes substitutions: Syntactic substitutions display two striking characteristics. First, substitutions are not cross-categorial. Second, substitutions are subject to the Single Feature Constraint: only one optional Formal feature from agreement (person, number and gender), Case and tense is altered. To derive these characteristics, I argue that the structure of the Lexicon is paradigmatic. Both omissions and substitutions lead me to a discussion of Lexical Insertion, the process by which words are inserted into syntactic structures. I conclude that the agrammatic deficit lies outside the phonological, syntactic and semantic components proper. Instead, omissions and substitutions result from an impairment to the interface mechanisms between the Lexicon, the Syntax and the Phonology.

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