Language deficits and the theory of syntax

Yosef Grodzinsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

276 Scopus citations


A new structural account of agrammatism is proposed, which analyzes the deficit in terms of one current theory of syntax. First, the motivation for accounts of this kind is given. Then, a variety of experimental findings from sentence comprehension in agrammatism are examined and accounted for in a unified way. It is shown that a minimal change in the syntactic model (achieved by imposing a special condition on a construct called trace), results in a model which accounts for all the data at hand. A number of possible objections to this proposal is then examined, and reasons are given to dismiss these objections. Also, it is shown that this proposal is preferable to other structural accounts which have been recently proposed. Finally, the empirical consequences of this account are discussed, with a special emphasis on the implications for models of language processing.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)135-159
Number of pages25
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1986
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is an extended version of a talk presented at the BABBLE conference. Niagara Falls. Canada, March 1984. It is also a revised version of Chapter 2 in Grodzinsky (1984b). A number of people have been helpful in providing comments. criticisms and encouragement. They include Ruth Berman. Hiram Brownell, David Caplan, Noam Chomsky. Jane Grimshaw. Steve Lapointe, Luigi Rizzi. Lisa Travis, and. most of all, Edgar Zurif. Their help is greatly appreciated. The preparation of this manuscript was supported by the MIT Center for Cognitive Science, under a grant from the A. P. Sloan Foundation’s particular program in Cognitive Science. and by NIH Grants NS 11408 and 06209 to the Aphasia Research Center, Boston University School of Medicine. Address reprint requests to Yosef Grodzinsky, Center for Cognitive Science. 208-225. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. MA 02139.


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