Speech Errors in Alzheimer's Disease Reevaluating Morphosyntactic Preservation Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2001
Speech Errors in Alzheimer's Disease
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Lori J. P. Altmann
    Gerontology Center University of Kansas Lawrence
  • Daniel Kempler
    Schools of Medicine and Gerontology University of Southern California Los Angeles
  • Elaine S. Andersen
    Department of Linguistics and Program in Neuroscience University of Southern California Los Angeles
  • Contact author: Lori Altmann, PhD, Gerontology Center, University of Kansas, 1000 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, KS 66045-7555.
    Contact author: Lori Altmann, PhD, Gerontology Center, University of Kansas, 1000 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, KS 66045-7555.×
  • Corresponding author: E-mail: laltmann@ukans.edu
Article Information
Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2001
Speech Errors in Alzheimer's Disease
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2001, Vol. 44, 1069-1082. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2001/085)
History: Received November 30, 2000 , Accepted April 24, 2001
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2001, Vol. 44, 1069-1082. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2001/085)
History: Received November 30, 2000; Accepted April 24, 2001
Web of Science® Times Cited: 24

Researchers studying the speech of individuals with probable Alzheimer's disease (PAD) report that morphosyntax is preserved relative to lexical aspects of speech. The current study questions whether dividing all errors into only two categories, morphosyntactic and lexical, is warranted, given the theoretical controversies concerning the production and representation of pronouns and closed-class words in particular. Two experiments compare the speech output of 10 individuals with Alzheimer's disease to that of 15 healthy age- and education-matched speakers. Results of the first experiment indicate that the pattern of errors in the speech of participants with mild PAD reflects an across-the-board increase in the same types of errors made by healthy older speakers, including closed-class and morphosyntactic errors. In the second task, participants produced a grammatical sentence from written stimuli consisting of a transitive verb and two nouns. Only adults with Alzheimer's disease had difficulties with this task, producing many more closed-class word errors than did healthy older adults. Three of the participants with PAD produced nearly agrammatic speech in this task. These 3 people did not differ from the rest of the PAD group in age, education, working memory, or degree of semantic impairment. Further, error rates on the two tasks were highly correlated. We conclude that morphosyntax is not preserved in the speech output of individuals with PAD, but is vulnerable to errors along with all aspects of language that must be generated by the speaker. We suggest that these results best support a model of speech production in which all words are represented by semantic and grammatical features, both of which are vulnerable to failures of activation when there is damage or noise in the system as a result of pathology, trauma, or even divided attention.

Acknowledgment
This work was completed in partial fulfillment of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. It was supported by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service (#5348-28-2560), Maryellen MacDonald, principal investigator, Elaine Andersen and Daniel Kempler, co-principal investigators. We are grateful to Mariela Gil, Laila Lalami, Karen Marblestone, Sarah Schuster, and Karen Stevens for their help in collecting these data, and we thank the participants and their families for taking part in this project. We would also like to sincerely thank Lorraine Obler, Susan Kemper, Laura Gonnerman, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of this paper.
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