Time reference in agrammatic aphasia: A cross-linguistic study
It has been shown across several languages that verb inflection is difficult for agrammatic aphasic speakers. In particular, Tense inflection is vulnerable. Several theoretical accounts for this have been posed, for example, a pure syntactic one suggesting that the Tense node is unavailable due to its position in the syntactic tree (Friedmann & Grodzinsky, 1997); one suggesting that the interpretable features of the Tense node are underspecified (Burchert, Swoboda-Moll, & De Bleser, 2005; Wenzlaff & Clahsen, 2004, 2005); and a morphosemantic one, arguing that the diacritic Tense features are affected in agrammatism (Faroqi–Shah & Dickey, 2009; Lee, Milman, & Thompson, 2008). However recent findings (Bastiaanse, 2008) and a reanalysis of some oral production studies (e.g. Lee et al., 2008; Nanousi, Masterson, Druks, & Atkinson, 2006) suggest that both Tense and Aspect are impaired and, most importantly, reference to the past is selectively impaired, both through simple verb forms (such as simple past in English) and through periphrastic verb forms (such as the present perfect, ‘has V-ed’, in English). It will be argued that reference to the past is discourse linked and reference to the present and future is not (Zagona, 2003, in press). In-line with Avrutin’s (2000) theory that suggests discourse linking is impaired in Broca’s aphasia, the PAst DIscourse LInking Hypothesis (PADILIH) has been formulated. Three predictions were tested: (1) patients with agrammatic aphasia are selectively impaired in use of grammatical morphology associated with reference to the past, whereas, inflected forms which refer to the present and future are relatively spared; (2) this impairment is language-independent; and (3) this impairment will occur in both production and comprehension.Agrammatic Chinese, English and Turkish speakers were tested with the Test for Assessing Reference of Time (TART; Bastiaanse, Jonkers, & Thompson, unpublished). Results showed that both the English and Turkish agrammatic speakers performed as hypothesized, showing a selective deficit for production of inflected forms referring to the past, despite the typological difference between the languages. The Chinese agrammatic speakers were poor in reference to the past as well, but reference to the present and future also was severely impaired. For comprehension, the results were strikingly similar for the three languages: reference to the past was impaired for all. These results confirmed our hypothesis that reference to the past is discourse linked and, therefore, grammatical morphology used for reference to the past is impaired in agrammatic aphasia, whether this is done through Tense and/or Aspect markers.