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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Brain, Verbs, and the Past: Neurolinguistic Studies on Time Reference Add Dissertation
Author: Laura Bos Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, International Doctorate for Experimental Approaches to Language and Brain (IDEALAB), Universities of Groningen (NL), Newcastle (UK), Potsdam (GE), Trento (IT) & Macquarie University, Sydney (AU)
Completed in: 2014
Linguistic Subfield(s): Neurolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): Dutch
Director(s): Roelien Bastiaanse
Isabell Wartenburger

Abstract: The sentence ‘de man biked’ is more difficult than ‘the man is biking’ for people with agrammatic aphasia. Agrammatic aphasia is a grammatical disorder caused by brain damage such as stroke. In Dutch/English, one can paradoxically refer to the past by means of a verb form in present (perfect) tense, for example ‘has biked’. Laura Bos shows that it is not the past tense per se that is difficult, but reference to the past irrespective of the verb form employed: For Dutch people with aphasia, it was more difficult to complete sentences with the simple past or present perfect than with the simple present. According to Bastiaanse and colleagues (2011), this is because for reference to the past, one refers to an event before the moment of speech. This event should be recalled from discourse, which requires additional brain capacity. This discourse-explanation is supported by another study of this PhD research: Russian people with aphasia had a simultaneous impairment in comprehension of discourse-processes, including time reference. Also healthy people made this discourse-related distinction in time reference, as shown in a third study involving brain activity measurements using electroencephalography. In a fourth study, Laura Bos has analyzed eye movements. These showed that German agrammatic aphasic participants were equally fast as healthy participants in processing verb forms referring to the future, but slower in processing verb forms referring to the past. The outcomes of the research contribute to the knowledge on the influence of discourse linking on past time reference assignment, compared to non-past time reference. This dissertation sheds light on how these types of time reference are represented in the brain, how they are processed and how they can be affected by brain damage. Individuals with agrammatic aphasia often omit or substitute (past) tense inflection. The knowledge on time reference acquired within this project adds to the understanding of the underlying deficits in aphasia, which is of importance for the development of assessment and treatment methods for individuals with aphasia.