LINGUIST List 21.3159

Tue Aug 03 2010

Diss: Neuroling: Fyndanis: 'Functional Categories in Greek ...'

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        1.    Valantis Fyndanis, Functional Categories in Greek Agrammatism

Message 1: Functional Categories in Greek Agrammatism
Date: 31-Jul-2010
From: Valantis Fyndanis <>
Subject: Functional Categories in Greek Agrammatism
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Institution: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Program: Department of Linguistics Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2009

Author: Valantis Fyndanis

Dissertation Title: Functional Categories in Greek Agrammatism

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Neurolinguistics
Subject Language(s): Greek (ell)
Dissertation Director:
Kyrana Tsapkini Spyridoula Varlokosta Anna Anastiasiadi-Simeonidi
Dissertation Abstract:

The present study, which is conducted within the general framework of Generative Grammar (Chomsky, 1981; 1995 and thereafter), investigates the ability of three Greek-speaking agrammatic aphasics to handle (in both production and comprehension) a number of functional categories: Complementizer (C), Negation (Neg), subject-verb Agreement (Agr), Tense (T), and Aspect (Asp). To test these categories, a series of structured tasks were administered (e.g. question elicitation task, constituent ordering tasks, truth-value judgment task, sentence completion task,sentence grammaticality judgment task, sentence repetition task, etc). Apart from the afore-mentioned categories, the effect of some other variables on the agrammatic performance was also explored, such as the frequency of occurrence and the morphological regularity of the verb, as well as the structural complexity of the sentence.

One of the principal goals of this study is to test some accounts of agrammatism proposed so far, such as the Tree Pruning Hypothesis (TPH) (Friedmann & Grodzinsky, 1997) and the Interpretable Features' Impairment Hypothesis (IFIH) (Nanousi, Masterson, Druks, & Atkinson, 2006; Varlokosta, Valeonti, Kakavoulia, Lazaridou, Economou, & Protopapas, 2006). According to TPH, agrammatism arises from deletion or 'pruning' of the syntactic tree at the T node. TPH predicts that everything above T is lost while material below is preserved. On the other hand, IFIH is not structural/hierarchical in nature, as it predicts that in agrammatism the most severe impairment will involve the functional categories with interpretable features (such as T and Asp) rather than the ones with uninterpretable features (such as Agr).

The results of the present study are in line with IFIH, since T, Asp, Neg. and C - which all bear interpretable features - were found to be severely impaired, while Agr was found significantly less impaired. In contrast, given that Asp is lower that T and Agr in the Greek syntactic hierarchy (Philippaki-Warburton, 1998), these results cannot be accounted for by TPH.

Apart from reinforcing the descriptive adequacy of IFIH, this study aimed at developing its interpretative enrichment as well. More specifically, on the basis of the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the agrammatic patterns of our participants, it is argued that they have two co-existing deficits: a linguistic one, which is mainly syntactic in nature affecting functional categories across the board, and a 'psychological/cognitive' one, namely a limitation of processing resources. Therefore, it is suggested that what renders the categories with interpretable features morevulnerable than those with uninterpretable features is the synergistic effect of three facts: (a) agrammatic speakers (at least the ones that participated in the present study) have reduced processing resources, (b) they have a syntactic deficit affecting functional categories across the board, and (c) the categories with interpretable features are more demanding in terms of processing resources, as they require integration of grammatical and conceptual knowledge. In contrast, implementation of only grammatical knowledge is sufficient for 'uninterpretable' categories like Agr.

Finally, similar but not identical patterns of performance were observed across different modalities (comprehension and production), reinforcing the weak (and not the strong) parallelism between them and, thus, providing empirical support to Grodzinsky's claim (2000: 18) that there is anatomical proximity, but functional separation between production and comprehension mechanisms.

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