Surface dysgraphia in a regular orthography: Apostrophe use by an Italian writer

Simona Luzzi, Marco Bartolini, Michela Coccia, Leandro Provinciali, Massimo Piccirilli, Julie S. Snowden

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The dual-route model of writing assumes two basic procedures involved in writing: lexical and non-lexical. The lexical route is fundamental in opaque orthographies such as English; from its impairment surface dysgraphia arises. Evidence for the role of a lexical route in transparent languages such as Italian, which have a regular orthography, has been more limited. We report a case study of ES, an Italian patient suffering from degenerative brain disease, who presented with a selective disorder of writing. He showed the unusual phenomenon of inserting an apostrophe inappropriately in the spellings of words. Neuropsychological evaluation provided evidence of loss of orthographic meaning of the apostrophe and a pattern of writing performance consistent with surface dysgraphia. There was also evidence of an accompanying surface dyslexia. We conclude that examination of apostrophe use provides a valuable means of detecting surface dysgraphia in the Italian language. The findings point to the need for cognitive models of writing to account for "dumb symbols" of language such as the apostrophe. This unique case provides a further example of the variety of clinical presentations of focal cerebral degeneration.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)285-296
    Number of pages11
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


    • Apostrophe
    • Focal brain atrophy
    • Reading
    • Surface dysgraphia
    • Writing


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