DOI: 10.1162/nol_a_00117 ISSN: 2641-4368

Grammatical Parallelism in Aphasia: A Lesion-Symptom Mapping Study

William Matchin, Dirk-Bart den Ouden, Alexandra Basilakos, Brielle Caserta Stark, Julius Fridriksson, Gregory Hickok
  • Neurology
  • Linguistics and Language


Sentence structure, or syntax, is potentially a uniquely creative aspect of the human mind. Neuropsychological experiments in the 1970s suggested parallel syntactic production and comprehension deficits in agrammatic Broca’s aphasia, thought to result from damage to syntactic mechanisms in Broca’s area in the left frontal lobe. This hypothesis was sometimes termed overarching agrammatism, converging with developments in linguistic theory concerning central syntactic mechanisms supporting language production and comprehension. However, the evidence supporting an association among receptive syntactic deficits, expressive agrammatism, and damage to frontal cortex is equivocal. In addition, the relationship among a distinct grammatical production deficit in aphasia, paragrammatism, and receptive syntax has not been assessed. We used lesion-symptom mapping in three partially overlapping groups of left-hemisphere stroke patients to investigate these issues: grammatical production deficits in a primary group of 53 subjects and syntactic comprehension in larger sample sizes (N = 130, 218) that overlapped with the primary group. Paragrammatic production deficits were significantly associated with multiple analyses of syntactic comprehension, particularly when incorporating lesion volume as a covariate, but agrammatic production deficits were not. The lesion correlates of impaired performance of syntactic comprehension were significantly associated with damage to temporal lobe regions, which were also implicated in paragrammatism, but not with the inferior and middle frontal regions implicated in expressive agrammatism. Our results provide strong evidence against the overarching agrammatism hypothesis. By contrast, our results suggest the possibility of an alternative grammatical parallelism hypothesis rooted in paragrammatism and a central syntactic system in the posterior temporal lobe.

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