Authors: Thompson CK, Shapiro LP, Tait ME, Jacobs BJ, Schneider SL
Title: Training wh-question production in agrammatic aphasia: analysis of argument and adjunct movement
Source: Brain and Language 1996 52(1): 175-228
Year: 1996
Research Design: Single Case Design

The present research utilized aspects of the Principles and Parameters Approach (P&PA; Chomsky, 1991, 1993) in linguistic theory as well as findings from the psycholinguistic literature as a basis for examining sentence production in aphasic individuals. We examined the production of particular wh-movement constructions--wh-questions requiring movement of an argument noun phrase (i.e., who and what questions) and those which require adjunct movement (i.e., when and where questions). Using a single-subject experimental treatment paradigm, subjects were sequentially trained to produce these wh-questions and, throughout training, generalization to untrained wh-questions relying on similar wh-movement processes was tested. As well, the influence of training on aspects of narrative and conversational discourse was examined. Seven agrammatic aphasic subjects who evinced difficulty producing (and comprehending) "complex" sentences (e.g., passives, object relative clauses, wh-questions)--sentences that involve movement of noun phrases (NPs) out of their canonical positions, leaving behind a "trace" of that movement or "gap"--participated in the study. Subjects were trained to produce wh-questions by taking them through a series of steps emphasizing the lexical and syntactic properties (e.g., thematic role assignment, movement processes, and proper selection of wh-morpheme) of declarative sentence counterparts of target sentences. Results revealed improved sentence production abilities in all subjects under study in both constrained sentence production and, importantly, in discourse tasks. The argument/adjunct distinction was observed in the sentence production recovery patterns noted in six of the seven subjects. Three of the subjects evinced correct argument movement across trained and untrained question structures when wh-questions relying on argument movement were trained; similarly, for these subjects, training structures relying of adjunct movement resulted in improved adjunct movement. Three of the remaining four subjects who required additional treatment to alleviate their wh-morpheme selection deficits, too showed covariance between argument and adjunct movement structures with each type of movement emerging across structures in temporal sequence. We discuss these data in terms of the operations necessary to produce wh-questions, the importance of considering linguistic and psycholinguistic data when designing treatment programs for language disordered patients, and the contribution that detailed recovery data can make both to understanding the nature of sentence production deficits and to issues regarding normal sentence production.

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