The noun-verb problem in Chinese aphasia

E. Bates, S. Chen, O. Tzeng, Ping Li, M. Opie

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have shown that Broca's aphasics experience a selective difficulty with action naming inside or outside of a sentence context. Conversely, it has been suggested that Wernicke's aphasics are particularly impaired in object naming. A number of explanations have been offered to account for this double dissociation, including grammatical accounts according to which the main verb problem in agrammatic Broca's aphasics is viewed as a by-product of their syntactic and/or morphological impairment, due perhaps to the greater morphological load carried by verbs (compared with nouns). In the Chinese language, there are no verb conjugations and no declensions. Hence there is no reason to expect a relationship between morphological impairment and deficits in action naming. We examined comprehension and production of object and action names, outside of a sentence context, in a sample of Chinese-speaking Broca's and Wernicke's aphasics. There was an interaction between patient group and object/action naming, but no corresponding interaction on the comprehension task. We conclude that action-naming deficits in Broca's aphasia (and/or the corresponding sparing of action names in Wernicke's aphasia) cannot be attributed to morphological differences between nouns and verbs. We also found a sublexical variant of the noun/verb dissociation applied to the internal structure of compound words made up of a verbal and a nominal element: Broca's aphasics tended to lexicalize the verbal portion of these words more often than the nominal compound, while Wernicke's showed the opposite pattern. These sublexical effects are difficult to explain in syntactic terms nor do they fit the standard lexical view. A modified lexical account is proposed, emphasizing semantic/conceptual effects in a distributed lexicon. © 1991.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-233
Number of pages31
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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