Studies on inflectional morphology in semantic dementia (SD) have focused on the contrast between the regular and the irregular English past-tense. These studies aimed to contrast the claims of single- and dual-mechanism theories. However, both theories can account for impaired production of irregular verbs observed in SD. According to the dual-mechanism theory, this impairment is related to word-retrieval difficulties, while according to single-mechanism theory it is the consequence of semantic impairment. However, authors suggest that it is time to envision a broader role for semantic memory in the production of semantically encoded aspects of inflectional morphology. This study reports the performance of 10 French-speaking patients with SD in three tasks of inflectional morphology. Their performances were compared to those of a group of 20 age-, gender- and education-matched adults without cognitive impairment. Results show that SD patients had difficulties producing tense and person inflection in verbs and pseudo-verbs, whether regular or pseudo-regular. In a second task in which participants were directly exposed to regularity manipulations, SD patients tended to choose a more typical or predictable alternative over a correctly inflected verb. Results of the third task show that their difficulties in producing semantically encoded aspects of inflection, such as tense, are related to difficulties to understand the semantic content conveyed by inflectional morphemes. Overall, these results support the claim that semantic impairment can cause morphological deficits that do not only affect irregular verbs, but that also have impacts on the production and comprehension of semantic information conveyed by inflectional morphemes.
Keywords: Comprehension; Inflectional morphology; Production; Semantic dementia.
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