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Words in Time and Place: Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

By David Crystal

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Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

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Academic Paper


Title: Speech Errors in Alzheimer's Disease: Reevaluating Morphosyntactic Preservation
Author: Lori J. P. Altmann
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Florida
Author: Daniel Kempler
Institution: University of Southern California
Author: Elaine S. Andersen
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Southern California
Linguistic Field: Psycholinguistics
Subject Language: English
Subject Language Family: New English
Abstract: Researchers studying the speech of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) patients report that morphosyntax is preserved relative to lexical aspects of speech. The current study questions whether dividing all errors into only two categories, morphosyntactic and lexical, is warranted given the theoretical controversies concerning the production and representation of pronouns and closed class words, in particular. Two experiments compare the speech output of 10 Alzheimer's Disease patients to that of 15 healthy, age- and education-matched speakers. Results of the first experiment indicated that the pattern of errors in the speech of mild AD patients reflects an across-the-board increase in the same types of errors made by healthy elderly speakers, including closed class and morphosyntactic errors. In the second task, subjects produced a grammatical sentence from written stimuli consisting of a transitive verb and two nouns. Only subjects with Alzheimer's Disease had difficulties with this task, producing many more closed class word errors than control subjects. Three of the Alzheimer's patients produced nearly agrammatic speech in this task. These three patients did not differ from the rest of the Alzheimer group in age, education, working memory or degree of semantic impairment. Further, error rates on the two tasks were highly correlated in the AD group We conclude that morphosyntax is not preserved in the speech output of AD patients, but is vulnerable to errors along with all aspects of language that must be generated by the speaker. We suggest that these results best support a model of speech production in which all words are represented by semantic and grammatical features which are both vulnerable to failures of activation when there is damage or noise in the system due to pathology, trauma, or even divided attention.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 44, 1069-1082


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