Neuropsychological dissociations between regular and irregular past tense verb processing have been explained in two ways: (a) separate mechanisms of a rule-governed process for regular verbs and a lexical-associative process for irregular verbs; (b) a single system drawing on phonological and semantic knowledge. The latter account invokes phonological impairment as the basis of poorer performance for regular than irregular past tense forms, due to greater phonological complexity of the regular past. In 10 nonfluent aphasic patients, the apparent disadvantage for the production of regular past tense forms disappeared when phonological complexity was controlled. In a same-different judgment task on spoken words, all patients were impaired at judging regular stem and past-tense verbs like man/manned to be different, but equally poor at phonologically matched non-morphological discriminations like men/mend. These results indicate a central phonological deficit that is not limited to speech output nor to morphological processing; under such a deficit, distinctions lacking phonological salience, as typified by regular past tense English verbs, become especially vulnerable.
|Journal of Memory and Language
|Published - 2003