In This Article Aphasia

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Textbooks
  • Aphasic Language Datasets
  • Symptoms and Neurological Correlates
  • Across Languages
  • Phonemic and Phonetic Characteristics
  • Prosody
  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • Closed-Class Words
  • Issues and Debates on Sentences
  • Sentence Comprehension
  • Sentence Production
  • Discourse

Linguistics Aphasia
Susan Edwards, Christos Salis
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0052


Aphasia is a language disorder acquired subsequent to brain damage that affects production and understanding of spoken and written language in varying degrees and patterns associated with the size and site of the lesion (see Symptoms and Neurological Correlates). Written and online examples of aphasic speech are available (see Aphasic Language Datasets). Brain damage is usually in the left cerebral cortex, with the left temporal and frontal lobes being especially vulnerable. Profiles of deficits vary in the extent that levels of language, phonology (see Phonemic and Phonetic Characteristics), lexis (see Nouns, Verbs, Closed-Class Words), and syntax (see Sentence Comprehension and Sentence Production) are involved, in varying degrees and patterns, although lexical access problems are found in most types of aphasia. These deficits give rise to problems in connected speech (see Discourse). Variations in the types of language deficit found in aphasia led to the notion of syndromes and the search for associations between types of language deficits and sites of lesion (see Historical Overviews). Two well-described syndromes are Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasia. Broca’s aphasia is characterized by syntactic deficits in output but with relatively retained understanding of language. Most experimental research has been in this type of aphasia. In Wernicke’s aphasia, understanding is impaired and lexical semantics are compromised, whereas syntax is relatively intact. Aphasia is found in all languages (see Across Languages) and in children who have passed the early stages of language development and subsequently have impaired language following brain damage.

General Overviews

Overviews are found in edited collections, although few of these can be described as “general,” and in some journal special issues. The ones listed here tend to be more appropriate for postgraduate researchers than for undergraduate students. All these authors have published extensively in scientific journals. Caplan 1996, although published some time ago, still provides an excellent overview of psycholinguistic aphasia at the time of publication. Hillis 2002 is a collection of papers that provide a theoretical background to aphasia study. They include chapters on written and spoken language, models of lexical processing, applications of connectionism to aphasic language, and sentence production and comprehension. Grodzinsky, et al. 2000 is focused on Broca’s aphasia, although other types of aphasia are included in some of the studies. These papers report on psycholinguistic research into sentence processing and production; some studies look at lexical deficits (see Closed-Class Words). Useful surveys on aphasic phenomena, assessment, and intervention as well as background information is in Stemmer and Whitaker 2008. Goodglass 1993 is a classic text from an aphasia lab that has had considerable influence on research and clinical work in aphasia (see Developments in the 20th and 21st Centuries). LaPointe 2005 has chapters based on the Boston aphasia classification as well as chapters on written language disorders and neuroimaging in aphasia (see Developments in the 20th and 21st Centuries). Paquier and Van Dongen 1993 describes an unusual clinical condition, aphasia in children who, previous to brain damage, were exhibiting normal language development. Further papers on this topic are in the same issue of the journal in which this article appears.

  • Caplan, David. 1996. Language, structure, processing, and disorders. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    This is an informative text on aphasia, written for students from all educational backgrounds. Caplan explains models and theoretical concepts used in the field. He links selected linguistic theories and data from experimental psycholinguistic and online brain studies to aphasic disorders. A good example of interdisciplinary aphasic research.

  • Goodglass, Harold. 1993. Understanding aphasia. San Diego, CA: Academic.

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    Written by one of the 20th-century giants of aphasia, the text provides descriptions of aphasic syndromes that were widely adopted, despite limitations, as well as a historical context. Suitable for undergraduates and newcomers to the field.

  • Grodzinsky, Yosef, Lew Shapiro, and David Swinney, eds. 2000. Language and the brain: Representation and processing. Foundations of Neuropsychology. San Diego, CA, and London: Academic.

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    A collection of papers that provide a picture of some of the outstanding experimental work in aphasia, relating aphasia phenomena both to linguistic theories and psychological models of language processing. Many of the papers are on agrammatism, and some background knowledge of this condition is required. For advanced scholars.

  • Hillis, Argye E., ed. 2002. The handbook of adult language disorders: Integrating cognitive neuropsychology, neurology, and rehabilitation. New York: Psychology.

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    A collection of papers by eminent aphasiologists on various acquired language problems found in or associated with aphasia. Highly recommended as a guide to serious aphasic researchers who seek information about related cognitive processes as well as language.

  • LaPointe, Leonard L., ed. 2005. Aphasia and related neurogenic language disorders. 3d ed. New York: Thieme.

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    Chapters for those following the Goodglass syndromes (see Historical Overviews), plus chapters on acquired disorders of written language and language deficits associated with other conditions (dementia, traumatic head injury).

  • Paquier, Phillippe, and Hugh Van Dongen. 1993. Current trends in acquired childhood aphasia. Aphasiology 7.5: 421–440.

    E-mail Citation »

    The authors discuss the rare cases of aphasia acquired in childhood, including when language disorders are associated with cerebral seizures. The journal issue in which this article appears contains other papers on childhood aphasia, and Paquier’s introduction to the issue provides a context for the topic.

  • Stemmer, Brigitte, and Harry A. Whitaker, eds. 2008. Handbook of the neuroscience of language. Amsterdam and Boston: Elsevier/Academic.

    E-mail Citation »

    A number of the chapters are rich sources of information about the various backgrounds to the study of aphasia, surveys of experimental investigations into lexical and syntactic deficits, and the use of neuroimaging and event-related potential (ERP) in aphasia research. Provides a state-of-the-art view of aphasiology.

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