The relationship between phonological and morphological deficits in Broca's aphasia: further evidence from errors in verb inflection

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Braber, N ; Patterson, K ; Ellis, K ; McClelland, JL ; Ralph, MAL (2005)

A previous study of 10 patients with Broca’s aphasia demonstrated that the advantage for producing the past tense of irregular over regular verbs exhibited by these patients was eliminated when the two sets of past-tense forms were matched for phonological complexity (Bird, Lambon Ralph, Seidenberg, McClelland, & Patterson, 2003). The interpretation given was that a generalised phonological impairment was central to the patients’ language deficits, including their poor performance on regular past tense verbs. The current paper provides further evidence in favour of this hypothesis, on the basis of a detailed analysis of the errors produced by these same 10 patients in reading, repetition, and sentence completion for a large number of regular, irregular, and nonce verbs. The patients’ predominant error types in all tasks and for all verb types were close and distant phonologically related responses. The balance between close and distant errors varied along three continua: the severity of the patient (more distant errors produced by the more severely impaired patients); the difficulty of the task (more distant errors in sentence completion > reading > repetition); the difficulty of the item (more distant errors for novel word forms than real verbs). A position analysis for these phonologically related errors revealed that vowels were most likely to be preserved and that consonant onsets and offsets were equally likely to be incorrect. Critically, the patients’ errors exhibited a strong tendency to simplify the phonological form of the target. These results are consistent with the notion that the patients’ relatively greater difficulty with regular past tenses reflects a phonological impairment that is sensitive to the complexity of spoken forms.
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