Sentence interpretation in normal and aphasic Hindi speakers.
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In interpreting a sentence, listeners rely on a variety of linguistic cues to assign grammatical roles such as agent and patient. The present study considered the relative ranking of three cues to agenthood (word order, noun animacy, and subject-verb agreement) in normal and aphasic speakers of Hindi. Because animacy plays a grammatical role in Hindi (determining the nature and acceptability of sentences without accusative marking), this language is relevant to the claim that Broca's aphasia involves a dissociation between grammar and semantics. Results of Study 1 with normal Hindi-dominant speakers showed that animacy is the strongest cue in this language, while agreement is the weakest cue. In Study 2, Hindi-English bilinguals were tested in both their languages. Most showed the normal animacy-dominant monolingual pattern in Hindi, with a mixture of strategies from both languages in their interpretation of English. A substantial minority showed mixed strategies in both languages. Only 5 of 48 subjects displayed a complete separation between languages, with animacy dominance in Hindi and word order dominance in English. In Study 3, two Hindi-English bilinguals with Broca's aphasia were tested in both languages. Results indicate (a) greater use of animacy in Hindi than in English and (b) greater use of word order in English than in Hindi. The strategies displayed by these patients fall well within the range observed among bilingual normals. We conclude that the use of animacy in sentence interpretation by these aphasic patients reflects preservation of normal, language-specific processing strategies; it cannot be interpreted as a nonlinguistic strategy developed to compensate for receptive agrammatism. Results are discussed in light of other cross-linguistic evidence on sentence comprehension in monolingual and bilingual aphasics.
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