Effects of Syntactic Complexity, Semantic Reversibility, and Explicitness on Discourse Comprehension in Persons With Aphasia and in Healthy Controls Purpose Prior studies of discourse comprehension have concluded that the deficits of persons with aphasia (PWA) in syntactically based comprehension of sentences in isolation are not predictive of deficits in comprehension of sentences in discourse (Brookshire & Nicholas, 1984; Caplan & Evans, 1990). However, these studies used semantically constrained sentences ... Supplement Article
Supplement Article  |   May 01, 2012
Effects of Syntactic Complexity, Semantic Reversibility, and Explicitness on Discourse Comprehension in Persons With Aphasia and in Healthy Controls
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Joshua Levy
    University of Massachusetts Amherst
    Boston University, MA
    Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Elizabeth Hoover
    Boston University, MA
  • Gloria Waters
    Boston University, MA
  • Swathi Kiran
    Boston University, MA
  • David Caplan
    Boston University, MA
    Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Alex Berardino
    Boston University, MA
  • Chaleece Sandberg
    Boston University, MA
  • Correspondence to David Caplan: dcaplan@partners.org
  • Editor: Carol Scheffner Hammer
    Editor: Carol Scheffner Hammer×
  • Associate Editor: Heather Wright
    Associate Editor: Heather Wright×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Aphasia / Supplement: Select Papers From the 41st Clinical Aphasiology Conference
Supplement Article   |   May 01, 2012
Effects of Syntactic Complexity, Semantic Reversibility, and Explicitness on Discourse Comprehension in Persons With Aphasia and in Healthy Controls
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, May 2012, Vol. 21, S154-S165. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2012/11-0104)
History: Received August 15, 2011 , Accepted January 29, 2012
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, May 2012, Vol. 21, S154-S165. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2012/11-0104)
History: Received August 15, 2011; Accepted January 29, 2012
Web of Science® Times Cited: 4

Purpose Prior studies of discourse comprehension have concluded that the deficits of persons with aphasia (PWA) in syntactically based comprehension of sentences in isolation are not predictive of deficits in comprehension of sentences in discourse (Brookshire & Nicholas, 1984; Caplan & Evans, 1990). However, these studies used semantically constrained sentences in discourse, which do not require syntactic analysis to be understood. A discourse task was developed to assess the effect of syntactic complexity, among other factors, on discourse comprehension in PWA.

Method Thirty-eight PWA and 30 neurologically healthy control participants were presented with passages that contained 2–3 semantically reversible sentences that were either syntactically simple or syntactically complex. The passages were presented auditorily, and comprehension was assessed with the auditory and written presentation of 4 multiple-choice questions immediately following each passage.

Results Passages with syntactically simple sentences were better understood than passages with syntactically complex sentences. Moreover, semantically constrained sentences were more likely to be accurately interpreted than semantically reversible sentences. Comprehension accuracy on our test correlated positively with comprehension accuracy on an existing test.

Conclusion The presence of semantically reversible, syntactically complex sentences in a passage affects comprehension of the passage in both PWA and neurologically healthy individuals.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant DC010461. The authors thank Elsa Ascenco, Rebecca Hufford, Balaji Rangarathnam, Daisy Sapolsky, and Marissa Simms for their assistance in data collection.
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