Verb Production in Aphasia: Testing the Division of Labor Between Syntax and Semantics

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Verb production is commonly impaired in aphasia, but it has been shown that not all verbs are impaired equally. Some individuals with aphasia have been shown to prefer semantically general "light" verbs, while others prefer semantically specific "heavy" verbs. The "division of labor" theory, that access to syntactic and semantic processes in language production influences the weight of verbs selected, was explored in this study by examining the verbs used in the narrative language of 166 neurologically healthy individuals and 164 individuals with aphasia. The proportions of light verbs used were compared to narrative language measures of syntactic and semantic ability as well as test scores. It was found that certain semantic and syntactic measures showed a significant relationship to the proportion of light verbs used for individuals with aphasia, supporting the "division of labor" model. For healthy individuals, one measure of syntactic complexity significantly predicted light verb use.