Purpose: There is a lot of evidence that people with aphasia have more difficulty understanding structurally complex sentences (e.g., object clefts) than simpler sentences (subject clefts). However, subject clefts also occur more frequently in English than object clefts. Thus, it is possible that both structural complexity and frequency affect how people with aphasia understand these structures. Method: Nine people with aphasia and 8 age-matched controls participated in the study. The stimuli consisted of 24 object cleft and 24 subject cleft sentences. The task was eye tracking during reading, which permits a more fine-grained analysis of reading performance than measures such as self-paced reading. Results: As expected, controls had longer reading times for critical regions in object cleft sentences compared with subject cleft sentences. People with aphasia showed the predicted effects of structural frequency. Effects of structural complexity in people with aphasia did not emerge on their first pass through the sentence but were observed when they were rereading critical regions of complex sentences. Conclusions: People with aphasia are sensitive to both structural complexity and structural frequency when reading. However, people with aphasia may use different reading strategies than controls when confronted with relatively infrequent and complex sentence structures.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Linguistics and Language
- Speech and Hearing