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Title: Pronoun processing in people with aphasia
Author: Devers, Maria Cecilia
ISNI:       0000 0004 6352 1313
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2016
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Background – People with aphasia (PWA) have been shown to present with aberrant use of pronominal words in the form of abnormal noun-to-pronoun ratios (e.g. over- or under-production), omissions, inappropriate or incorrect substitutions, and inappropriate reidentification of contextual antecedents. These error patterns have been identified in sentence and discourse comprehension and production. Although different processing accounts have been put forward to explain these variations and difficulties, it continues to remain unclear what specific contributing factors underlie the aberrant patterns of pronoun use observed. Aim – This thesis investigates how fluent and nonfluent PWA process pronouns and reflexives at different levels of communication. The primary research questions in this thesis focus on whether pronominal processing is impaired in PWA; and, if so, why are pronominal words difficult to process? Particular attention is drawn to how differential complexity factors in terms of increased syntactic, thematic, and structural (e.g. pronoun competition, reversibility, passive) complexity may influence pronominal processing in the aphasic linguistic system. Furthermore, this thesis aimed to expose whether or not different pronominal feature markers may be differentially processed or selectively impaired. Method – A series of language experiments were conducted using a study group of fluent and nonfluent people with aphasia and normal controls. The experiments investigated the following: 1) single-word pronominal comprehension, 2) pronominal comprehension in sentences, 3) pronoun comprehension in discourse, and 4) pronominal production in sentences. Further, a descriptive analysis was conducted to characterize patterns of pronoun use and cohesion in aphasic connected speech. The results of pronominal processing at single-word, sentence, and discourse levels from people with aphasia were compared to normal controls, and then between aphasia type. Results – The findings from the single-word experiment have shown that gender and number pronominal feature markers are differentially processed to person and case feature markers. The findings from the sentence and discourse experiments have exposed that people with aphasia interpret pronouns similarly to normal controls when processing pronouns as non-discourse-linked elements, and with significantly more difficulty than normal controls when processed as discourse-linked elements. These novel findings have advanced our understanding of pronominal processing in that the difficulty does not occur as a global impairment; rather, the difficulty is relevant to specific syntactic computations required for explicitly discourse-linked pronominal resolution.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available