Verb Naming in Telugu- English Bilinguals with Semantic DementiaDocument Transcript
Verb Naming in Telugu-English Bilinguals with Semantic Dementia
Sonal Chitnis*, Sudheer Bhan***, Suvarna Alladi**, Vani Rupela**, Jaydip Ray
Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad*, NIMS,Hyderabad**, Hyderabad Central University,India***
Objective(s): Verb production is affected in persons with cognitive communication
impairments. The study aimed to investigate naming impairments at verb level in three
bilingual Telugu–English-speaking persons with semantic dementia (SD). Impact of
bilingualism on impairment of verb forms and semantic errors in verb forms in relation to
transitive vs. intransitive verbs were studied.
Method(s): Persons with SD were compared with normal individuals who were matched in
terms of age, gender, education and bilingual language exposure. All participants were
coordinate bilinguals. Standard diagnostic criteria were used for diagnosing the patients with
SD. A ‘verb test battery’ was developed that included 21 pictures representing 10 transitive
and 11 intransitive verbs. Participants were asked to describe pictures in Telugu (first
language:L1) and English (second language:L2).
Results: Verb naming in persons with SD was more affected than in normals. More errors
were noticed in L2 than in L1 in persons with SD. No significant difference observed
between Transitive verbs and intransitive verb naming in these patients. They also had more
dynamic misnaming type of errors when compared to static misnaming. The types of errors
noticed were semantic paraphasias (related and unrelated), semantic jargon (relevant and
irrelevant), circumlocutions, semantic confusion, groping behaviour, and onomotopoeic
patterns. Code switching and code mixing were observed in SD as well as in normals.
Conclusions: The study demonstrates a significant impairment in naming verbs in SD when
compared to normals especially in terms of L2 attrition.
Key words: Semantic dementia, verb naming, bilingualism
Semantic dementia is a cognitive syndrome characterized by gradual deterioration of
conceptual knowledge or semantic memory (Hodges, Patterson, Oxbury, & Funnell, 1992). It
is marked by deterioration in semantic knowledge, the hallmark being a progressive inability
to generate or comprehend common concrete concepts in the context of relatively preserved
fluency of speech (Bright, Moss, & Tyler, 2008). Underlying semantic memory deﬁcits result
in speech which is empty of content while still syntactically and phonologically well-formed
(Clark, Charuvastra, Miller, Shapira, & Mendez, 2005). Deficits observed in persons with
semantic dementia (SD) include phonological errors, and difficulty in comprehending
complex syntactic structures. Neuroimaging studies reveal that persons with SD have
predominant left temporal lobe atrophy (Garrard, Patterson, Watkins, & Hodges, 2000;
Gorno-Tempini et al., 2004; Mummery, Patterson, Price & Hodges, 2000; Rosen et al.,
Persons with SD have a highly specific impairment of semantic memory. They fail in
diverse semantic tasks even though other aspects of phonology, visual processing and
decision making remain intact (Hodges et al. 1992). In SD, deficits in recognition also occur.
They are consequence of the selective degradation of semantic knowledge associated with
this syndrome. The breakdown of semantic knowledge has been posited as the basis for the
impairment in comprehension and naming ability in persons with dementia. For example,
persons with SD have substantial difficulty in generating members of semantic categories and
in making judgments about the physical properties and functions of objects. There is some
support for the notion that patients with dementia lose the knowledge of specific semantic
attributes representing knowledge about a concept. The first selective impairment of semantic
knowledge was reported by Warrington (1975). He described three patients with cerebral
atrophy (probable semantic dementia) and selective progressive difficulties in comprehending
the meaning of words and significance of objects in spite of a fluent and generally
syntactically correct speech. Degradation of semantic memory representations were reported
by Warrington and Shallice (1984) and then Warrington and McCarthy (1983, 1987). They
reported patients as having a primary progressive deficit in semantic memory (Warrington,
1975). They argued that the progressive anomia observed in these patients was not simply a
language deficit but reflected a fundamental loss of semantic memory, affecting object
recognition and knowledge as well as word finding and comprehension.
Mesulam (2003) have argued that such patients are better regarded as a subtype of
Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA). He also called PPA as language based dementia
(Mesulam, 2001). Recent studies have demonstrated distinct language-processing deficits in
each subgroup of patients with FTD reflecting the breakdown of a language-processing
system that consists of highly interactive but partially dissociable grammatical, semantic, and
resource-based (executive) components (Hyon-Ah, Moore, & Grossman, 2007). Variability
in findings of verb naming have been demonstrated in progressive fluent aphasia or SD
(Hillis, Sangjin & Ken, 2004). Investigations point to distinct neuroanatomic representations
for verbs and nouns although the precise neuroanatomic locus for these word classes appears
to be quite variable (Silveri, Perri, & Cappa, 2003).
Verbs are characterized as words referring to actions, states, processes or relations,
e.g. play, eat, hold and sit. Verbs referring to actions are also known as motion verbs.
Syntactically, they can be characterized as transitive verbs that are followed by an object and
intransitive verbs that are not followed by an object. Sometimes, motion verbs become
ambitransitive, e.g. climbing and reading can be both transitive and intransitive.
Semantic representation of verbs is more complex than that of nouns. Several
linguistic and neuropsychological factors are responsible for it. Verbs have one or more
permissible argument structures, whereas nouns have no argument structure. It results in
subcategories of verbs which makes generalizing from the usage of one verb to another often
impossible. Verbs that have more than one argument structure are more difficult to produce
even on picture naming. Verbs also tend to be morphologically more complex than nouns in
most languages as they have relatively low imageability than nouns. Frequency of nouns in
any language is more than that of verbs. This makes verbs more difficult to access or retrieve
than nouns. Modality of presentation too plays a significant role in verb naming. Motion
verbs presented through videos are better named than static line drawings of objects, as the
line drawings are not coloured or set in a rich, real world context. All or some of these factors
may lead to impairment of verbs more than nouns after brain damage or degeneration, as seen
in aphasia or Alzheimer’s disease or Semantic dementia (Matzig et al., 2008). The selective
disruption of verbs or nouns might occur at any one of several levels, the level of semantics,
the level of accessing the phonological or orthographic representation of words for output or
even at a pre-semantic level of processing, where picture stimuli are recognized as action vs.
objects. Neurophysiologically, the lexical-semantic representation of verbs are processed in
frontal regions such as left premotor cortex, whereas the representation of nouns are
processed more posteriorly such as in left anterior and medial temporal cortex (Shapiro &
Caramazza,, 2003). However, lesions in patients with impaired semantic processing for
action verbs are not always restricted to frontal cortex but may also extend to left parietal and
posterior temporal cortices. The evidence in this regard comes from repetitive transcranial
magnetic stimulation (rTMS) studies, PET studies and electrophysiological studies. Deficits
in verb naming (in particular with AD and SD) are the result of deficits in semantic memory.
Vulnerability of neural representation of verbs results in part from a difference in the
hierarchical taxonomic organization of verbs compared with nouns (Robinson, Grossman,
White-Devine, & D’Esposito, 1996; White-Devine et al., 1996).
It has been found that frontal variant of FTD can progressively disrupt preconceptual
representation of verbs relative to nouns (Bak, O’Donovan, Xuereb, Boniface, & Hodges,
2000). Bak & Hogdes (2001) reported that progressive nonfluent aphasias showed
progressive deterioration in semantics of verbs relative to nouns, whereas patients with
semantic dementias showed deterioration of nouns relative to verbs in a picture matching
task. These results suggest that semantic representation of verbs and nouns might entail
somewhat different neural substrates, because they can be differently impaired by brain
damage. Disproportionate impairment in naming verbs has generally been observed in
patients with frontal lesions and non fluent aphasias, whereas selective impairment in naming
nouns has generally been observed in patients with posterior temporal lesions and fluent
aphasias (Damasio & Tranel, 1993).
Verb naming has been studied in persons with SD by various investigators. Hyon-Ah,
Moore and Grossman (2007) reported that persons with AD and SD had significantly more
impairment in naming verbs than nouns. Persons with SD had greater difficulty with motion
verbs compared to cognition verbs. They argued that motion verbs were more difficult for
persons with SD because they had poorly organized verb semantic network relative to the
noun semantic network. Thus, verbs are more vulnerable to a progressive neurodegenerative
disease. Secondly, visual feature knowledge is degraded in persons with SD due to
distribution of disease in visual association cortex. It causes relatively greater difficulty for
motion verbs compared with cognition verbs.
Silveri and Ciccarelli (2007) studied noun and verb naming in three main variants of
frontotemporal dementia: the behavioural variant (bV-FTD), progressive non fluent aphasia
(PNFA) and SD. Persons with bV-FTD and PNFA named objects better than actions, but
persons with SD showed an inverse dissociation. They concluded that both linguistic and
non-linguistic factors in particular an executive deficit, contribute to grammatical class
Some studies have also shown that verbs are less affected than nouns in persons with
SD. Oral and written naming of nouns and verbs were investigated in fifteen persons with
PNFA, seven with SD and six with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with fronto-temporal
dementia by Hillis, Sangjin and Ken (2004). Persons with PNFA and ALS-FTD were
significantly more impaired on verb naming than on noun naming and significantly more
impaired on oral naming than written naming. Persons with SD were more impaired in
naming of nouns than verbs and significantly more impaired in written naming than oral
naming. Results reflect that separate regions of the brain are essential for access to oral and
written word forms of verbs and nouns and these neural regions can be differently damaged
in separate forms of PPA. Rhee, Anitquena, and Grossman (2001) found disproportionate
deficits for verbs in patients with various subtypes of fronto-temporal dementia. The more
severe impairement was seen not only in the frontal variant, but also in patients with primary
language disorders, both fluent and non-fluent.
Price and Grossman (2005) assessed comprehension of thematic and transitive verb
agreements during a sentence processing task in persons with FTD. The participants were
insensitive to violations of thematic role and transitivity agreements. The authors stated that
this may have reflected a broader degradation of verb knowledge that involved both
grammatical and semantic representations, or difficulty processing sentence structure.
Most studies on verb naming in persons with SD have been done in monolingual
individuals. We are not aware of any studies that have examined how verbs are affected in
bilingual persons with SD. In India, most people are bilingual. Moreover, as life expectancy
has increased, there are more elderly people in population of India. There are not many
studies on linguistic aspects of bilingual persons with SD in general and semantics of verb
forms in particular. Hence, the present study will be of great relevance in this direction.
Grosjean (1989) characterized bilingual speakers in perhaps the most realistic terms as those
who speak two or more languages in daily life. Perfect knowledge of both languages is not
required; instead, people use different languages for different purposes or life domains and
consequently have different levels of proficiency within their languages across domains
(Lorenzen & Murray, 2008). Bilingualism affects recovery from aphasia in different ways.
Similarly, in case of degenerative disorders including SD, first and second language
degeneration varies at different linguistic levels.
We studied verb naming (transitive and intransitive verbs) in three persons with SD in
the present study. We hypothesised that bilingual SD participants would have more semantic
impairment in verb naming than control participants. First, verb naming skills would be more
impaired in second language (L2) than first language (L1). Second, Transitive verbs which
need a direct object use would be more difficult to name than intransitive verbs in persons
with SD’s. Third, semantic cue would elicit better responses than repetition cue in naming
This study included three Telugu-English bilingual persons with semantic dementia.
Of the participants, two were male and one was female. They were in the age range 53 – 62
years with mean age 58 years. Their educational levels varied between 10 to 15 years with a
mean educational level of 13 years. All participants were diagnosed by an experienced
neurologist using standard Lund Manchester criteria (Neary et al., 1998). Neuroimaging and
blood tests were conducted in order to rule out other treatable or reversible illnesses. All
persons had mild to moderate dementia as per neuropsychological assessments:
Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination Revised (ACE-R), Telugu and Hindi adapted
versions, Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR). All
tests were carried out in the native language of the participants. Details are presented in table
Table 1: Demographic details of persons with SD
Participants Age Gender Education MMSE WAB
A bilingual language questionnaire (Salvatierra, Roselli, Acevedo, Duara, 2007) was
administered on all participants. All persons with SD rated themselves as quite well to
relatively well in their speaking fluency of both L1 and L2 except one participant N, who
could read and write but had limited verbal repertoire in spoken English. Individual
participant details are presented as follows:
Case 1- O is a 53 year old accountant who presented with fluent speech, relatively preserved
comprehension and syntactic skills but severe word finding difficulty. He is fond of reading
and writing Telugu and English articles, and poems. He came with a complaint of naming
difficulty of a progressive nature since 6 months. He also complained of an inability to think
and write well in terms of rhyming and matching words, and understanding what people say.
He ascribed his problems to stress and cigarette smoking for two months. Family members
reported rigidity in terms of behavior. There was no history of significant memory loss in
terms of events and this was corroborated with examination. MMSE score was 23/30. WAB
(AQ) = 58.4 hence he was classified as Transcortical Sensory Aphasia. MRI report revealed
left anterior temporal atrophy.
Case 2- S is 62 years old housewife who worked as a teacher for a few years before her
marriage. She had fluent speech and well preserved syntax. She came with complain of
progressive language disturbance and word finding difficulty including names of family
members since 1 year. Family members also reported changes in behavior in terms of not
wanting to throw away things that had gone bad. MMSE score was 24/30. WAB (AQ) = 62.3
hence she was classified as anomic aphasia. MRI report revealed left anterior temporal
Case 3- N is 60 years old farmer who presented with progressive problems in naming objects,
poor comprehension, logorrhea and circumlocutory speech. Family members reported that his
comprehension skills were deteriorating. WAB (AQ) score was 46.4 and hence he was
classified as having Wernicke’s Aphasia. MRI report revealed left anterior temporal atrophy.
Three bilingual control participants were also included who passed a neurological
screening conducted by a qualified neurologist. They were matched individually with
participants in the experimental group in terms of age, gender, languages spoken, and
educational background. They were in the age range 54 – 63 years with a mean age 60 years.
Materials and procedure:
A ‘verb naming test’ was administered on all participants in Telugu and English.
Pictures of the test were first field tested on ten 18-20 year old neurologically normal
bilingual adults. They were asked to rate the pictures in terms of clarity and were asked to
name them. Only those pictures that were rated clear were taken as stimuli. The final stimuli
included 21 picture cards depicting 11 transitive and 10 intransitive verbs in English, 10
transitive and 11 intransitive verbs in Telugu. Transitive and intransitive verbs were selected
according to their most common usage, but their designation in few cases was ambitransitive
Stimuli were administered in two languages. Due to structural differences, some intransitive
verbs become transitive in Telugu. Hence, the difference is no. of transitive and intransitive
stimuli in two languages.
Informed consents were taken from all participants. Pictures were shown one after
another to the participants. If participants could not give responses, they were first given a
repetition cue. If that failed to work, they were then given a semantic cue. They were asked
the questions in Telugu (first language-L1) first and then in English (second language- L2).
Speech samples were recorded using Sony’s voice recorder in a quiet setting. All data was
transcribed and analysed based on naming patterns and processes.
The data obtained from participants on verb test battery and responses to cueing were
subjected to statistical analysis, namely Mann Whitney U test to find out whether there was a
significant difference in verb naming between SD and control group. The responses were also
analyzed according to errors using the following key (Bhan, 2000):
1. Semantic paraphasias: These are substitutions, where the substituted word is semantically
related to target word.
a. Dynamic misnaming: Either one element is singled out from the general composition of
the action (piercing for sewing) or an equivalent or more generalized attitude is
substituted (writes for draws). The singling out of the dynamic element sometimes
results in a novel word (bullets throwing / shooting), which may also contain phonemic
paraphasias (Beyn & Vlasenko, 1974).
b. Static misnaming: In static misnaming, verb forms are replaced by a noun. E.g.: ‘The
farmer is ploughing the field’ is said as ‘with the plough’.
2. Semantically unrelated paraphasias: These are substitutions for the target word, which are
not semantically related to it.
3. Semantically unrelated paraphasias within the semantic field: These are substitutions for
target verb, which are not related to it but both target verb and named verb are within the
same semantic field.
4. Semantic jargon: When a patient uses confused, intelligible or unintelligible language,
while responding to noun or verbal stimuli, it is called semantic jargon. It can be
semantically relevant or irrelevant .It is lengthy, fluent utterance with content words.
5. Phonemic paraphasias: These are substitutions at sound level in words. They involve
additions, deletions or interchange of phonemes within the word.
6. Circumlocutions: Some patients, unable to evoke an elusive word, substitute another
word, phrase, gesture or use circumlocutions due to word finding difficulty. Instead of
naming the verb or object noun, he names only its attributes or functions i.e. they talk
around or about the specific word.
7. Onomatopoeic pattern: A pattern in which a noun or verb is replaced by its sound while
8. Code switching: When the subject substitutes a sentence from another language for the
target verb, the phenomena is known as code switching.
9. Code mixing: Mixing of words from one language into another language is called code
Responses obtained from all participants were transcribed and analyzed. Comparisons
were made between responses obtained from control participants and persons with SD.
Numbers of correct responses for verb naming in Telugu and English, transitive and
intransitive verbs in both of these languages were compared between two groups. In order to
compare the numbers of correct responses between groups in both languages the Mann
Whitney U test was performed. We will first present group comparisons and then some
individual trends and errors.
Table 2: Performance of participants in Telugu and English verb naming
Figure 1: Correct responses for Telugu and English verbs in SD and control group
Results revealed that the two groups of participants significantly differed from each
other when compared in terms of correct responses obtained in both languages. Persons with
SD showed significantly less number of correct responses when compared with the controls
in both languages. Interaction effect between language and group was also significant.
Persons with SD showed significantly lesser number of correct responses in English when
compared to Telugu. However, no differences in language were observed in the control
Comparisons for transitive and intransitive verbs were also carried out. When we look
across Telugu and English data, we find that persons with SD were more impaired in both
transitive and intransitive verbs in English than Telugu. That reflects more degeneration of
L2 when compared to L1 among persons with SD. However, no significant differences were
observed between transitive and intransitive verbs.
Table 3: Transitive and Intransitive verb analysis for both groups of participants
Transitive verbs Intransitive verbs Transitive verbs Intransitive verbs
Figure 2: Comparison of participants on transitive and intransitive Telugu and English verbs
Table 3 and figure 2 depict the performance of participants on transitive and
intransitive verbs in Telugu as well as English. Participants with SD were more impaired in
naming of transitive and intransitive verbs than participants in the control group. No
significant differences were found between transitive and intransitive verb naming in SD.
We now discuss about various lexical patterns observed in naming of transitive and
intransitive verbs in bilingual (Telugu/English) persons with SD and control participants as
Examples of responses of participants in control group:
Control participants were asked to name picture stimuli of 21 motion verbs first in
Telugu and then in English. Almost all participants named 19 out of 21 verbs correctly in
Telugu. In English verb naming, all participants could name 20 out of 21 verbs, except one
participant aged 62 years. Code switching with correct response in Telugu was seen in two
participants, who could not name English verbs. The rest of them named 95% of the verbs
correctly in English. Code mixing was seen in only one control participant for verbs ‘cutting
and ‘blowing’ in Telugu
E.g.: ‘abbaayi uudutunnaadu’
‘He is blowing’
‘abbaayi blow chestunnaadu’
‘he is doing blow’
‘ammaayi kuuragaajəlu kostundi’
‘ammaayi kuurəgaajəlu kət chestundi’
‘The girl is cutting vegetables’
‘The girl is cutting vegetables’
Examples of responses from persons with SD:
1. Semantic paraphasias: Semantic paraphasias were frequently observed in both Telugu as
well as English data of persons with SD. When shown a picture of a boy stitching clothes, N
named that ‘he is turning over the cloth and putting it for stitching’ and thus indicating word
finding difficulty. When investigator provided the semantic cue of ‘battəlu’ i.e. ‘clothes’, N
mentioned that ‘the boy is turning over/rotating the cloth’ instead of stitching. Here, N has
named part of the action i.e. ‘tippudu’ or rotating (the cloth) for whole verb ‘kuttutunnaadu’
or ‘stitching’. Thus, he has given an instance of dynamic misnaming. Similar type of naming
for ‘kuttutunnaadu’ or ‘stitching’ was given by S, whereas O named it as ‘tokkutunaadu’
which means ‘he is handling the machine’.
E.g.: ‘abbaayi kuttutunnadu’
‘idi tippudu pedtunnaadu, idi andi, tippuda idi
‘He is turning over the cloth and putting it,
turning, that’s it.....this, this’
‘bəttalu toti tippudu
‘(He) is turning over / rotating with clothes’
In response to a picture depicting a boy jumping, S described it as ‘dancing’. When
asked to name transitive verb ‘singing’ in response to a picture stimuli, O used a semantically
related verb ‘talking’. In another instance, O also revealed semantic confusion. First he used
‘walking’ for ‘crawling’ and then going. Later, he used an idiomatic expression referring to
verb ‘going to his black and white’. However, verbs ‘walking’ and ‘going’ are semantically
related to target verb ‘crawling’. Secondly, ‘walking’ and ‘going’ are one part of the whole
verb ‘crawling’, demonstrating a part-whole relation.
E.g.: ‘baabu egurutunnaadu’
‘The boy is jumping’
‘dance chestunnaadu’ (S)
‘(He) is dancing‘
E.g.: ‘The girl is singing’
‘She is talking’ (O)
E.g.: ‘The boy is crawling’
‘He is walking’ (O)
‘He is going....going to his white and black’
There were several instances of static misnaming as well, a type of semantic
paraphasia. In response to a picture of a girl lighting the lamp, participant O used a noun and
said ‘doing with Bhagwan’ in place of the target verb i.e. ‘lighting’ the lamp. In the second
instance, he said ‘doing with balloons’ in place of blowing balloons. Both these instances
indicated that participant O simplified the target verbs as he could not name them.
E.g.: ‘The girl is lighting the lamp’
‘She is doing with bhagwan’
She is doing with God
E.g.: ‘The boys are blowing balloons’→
‘They are....they are ...doing with balloons’
Semantically unrelated paraphasia
E.g.: ‘The boy is sleeping’
‘He is writing’ (O)
In this instance, the target verb ‘sleeping’ and the response i.e. ‘writing’ are not
contextually or semantically related.
Semantically unrelated paraphasias within the semantic field:
When shown a picture depicting woman washing the clothes, N first produced
semantically irrelevant jargon and then said ‘aareskodaniki’ for drying, and ‘adi lekha’ –‘that
is the thing’. Perhaps, he wanted to say that lady is washing the clothes for drying them later
on, but he could not name the required transitive verb i.e. ‘washing clothes’ and in its place
substituted verb ‘drying’.
E.g.: ‘aame battalu utukutundi’
‘she is washing clothes’
‘aareskodaaniki adi lekha’ (N)
‘for drying clothes, that is the thing’
In response to the picture of a women lighting the earthen lamp before an idol, she
mentioned that ‘she is bowing before God’ and ‘doing pooja or worship’. Both the verbs
‘bowing’ and ‘worshipping’ belong to the semantic field.
E.g.: ‘ammaayi diipam pedutunnadi
‘devudu ki dandam pedutunnadi
puuja chestunnadi’ (O)
‘she is lighting the lamp’
‘she is bowing before God, (she) is
worshipping or praying’
4. Onomatopoeic pattern
When shown a picture of a boy sliding, O named that he is getting down like this, by
making a sound ‘taka’. In this instance, he gave an onomatopoeic response of ‘taka’ in order
to describe the sound. A similar response was also found in S’s naming.
E.g. ‘abbaayi jaarutunnaadu’
‘itla tak ani digutunnaadu’ (S)
‘The boy is sliding’
‘I get down .....tak, like this’
‘nenu kuuda digedaanni, taka taka
‘I used to get down too, taka taka, I get
E.g.: ‘abbaayi padava naduputunnaadu’
kodutunnaadu bayata povadaaniki try
‘The boy is rowing’
‘in water...in water.....by sitting....he is
he is moving those (rows) and is…trying
to get out (of water)’ (O)
E.g.: ‘abbaayi jaarutunnaadu’
‘The boy is sliding’
‘itla paiki ekki digutunnaadu’ (N)
‘after climbing up (the slide), he is
getting down like this (gesture)’
‘itla nilapadi diguta untaaru’ (S)
‘He stands like this (gesture) and keeps
on getting down (the slide)’
All these instances indicated that the participants used circumlocutions to describe the
target verbs. Circum locutions were found more in participant S than in N and O. N described
that the place shown is full of water and the boy is hitting here and there (in water) with a
wooden stick (row) instead of the target verb ‘rowing’. These circumlocutions reflect that
persons with SD included in the present study have failed to access semantic representations
for certain transitive and intransitive verbs. They also present with relatively preserved
nominal retention as seen in most persons with SD since they are able to name nouns within
the semantic field, with substitution of other verbs for the target verb.
6. Semantic jargon
This was observed more often in participant N who is a farmer. As a farmer, he has
well preserved ideas /concepts about semantic field of agriculture (farming) and its products.
Thus, wherever he had difficulty in naming a target verb, he tried to explain it in terms of
agriculture products. In response to the picture of a sleeping boy, he mentioned that ‘the poor
boy is sitting in prone position resting his head on the pillow’. He probably presumed the
small boy as a raw vegetable (kaaya), as the boy is motionless. He substituted ‘sitting’ and
then ‘lying in prone position’ in place of ‘sleeping’ in his verb naming. ‘Lying’ is one part of
the whole verb i.e. ‘sleeping’.
Thus, he named a part verb (action) for whole verb
substitution of sitting in place of sleeping. Also sitting in prone position is not possible. When
provided with a repetition and semantic cue, it did not help him to name the verb correctly. In
another instance, N referred to the comb as an object of ‘cleaning’ (hair). He then mentioned
that the girl is lady is holding it in her hand and it (comb) has stuck in her hair. So ‘getting
stuck’ is a one part of the whole verb ‘combing’. The following examples are semantically
E.g.: ‘abbaayi padukunnaadu’
‘idi assalu kaaya paapam abbaayi,borla
daani miidaa talakaaya petti kukkunaadu’
‘The boy is sleeping’
‘this is a real vegetable...that poor boy is sitting
and resting his head over the pillow”
E.g.: ‘ammaayi duvvukuntundi’
‘idi maamuləga nenu anukunnaanu
‘The lady is combing’
‘This is usual I thought, used as an object of
‘baagaane undi. Cheetulo pettukuntundi’
‘This is good, (she) is holding (it) in hand’
‘Idi assalu leka’
‘That’s the thing’
‘It (comb) is stuck in her hair’
Semantically irrelevant jargon was also observed in participants. In the following
instances both N and S produced semantic jargon that was in no way related to the pictures
shown to elicit target transitive verbs. For example playing with toys, lighting the lamp and
singing a song. Such instances were not part of O’s verbal repertoire.
E.g.: ‘ammaayi bommalato aadukuntundi
‘ammaayi emo assalu ammaayi, emi
cheji akkharaledu. Chinna ammaayi
perugutundi memu chesi penche vaalam
‘The girl is playing with toys’
‘This girl is a real girl, need not do
anything. (This) small girl is growing.
We are the ones who will bring her up”
E.g.: ‘ammaayi diipam veligistunnadi
‘idi milk vessel kada? vedi cesta undi
‘The lady is lighting the lamp’
‘isn’t it a milk vessel, (she) is boiling it’
E.g.: ‘ammaayi paata paadutunnadi’
‘enduko akkada vellindi, enduko
cestundi daani kuuda oka lekha’
‘The girl is singing a song’
‘why why did she go there; that also
has a meaning’
7. Code Mixing:
Code mixing in persons with SD was found only in Telugu stimuli i.e. they mixed
English words in Telugu data. Code mixing pattern consisted of nouns in English and verb
forms in Telugu.
E.g.: ‘abbaayi padava nadaputunnaadu’
‘water lo, niilallo kurchoni
‘The boy is rowing’
‘in water, in water, he’s moving those
E.g.: ‘kuuragaajalu kostunnadi’
‘cut chestundi….kətti to cut chestundi’
‘She is cutting vegetables’
‘she is doing cut, she is cutting with
Code Switching to Telugu was encountered in persons with SD in response to English
verb stimuli. However no code switching was seen in response to Telugu stimuli. This
reflects that verb naming was better preserved in SD’s in Telugu (native language) relative to
English (second language). However, code switching was not observed in participant N as he
could not comprehend and respond to English verbal stimuli. Participant S code switched to
Telugu for eight out of twenty two English verbal stimuli. In participant O, code switching
was observed in response to several verb stimuli in English. He sometimes code switched to
Telugu and sometimes to Hindi.
9. Phonemic paraphasias were not observed in any of the participants with SD or in the
Discussion and conclusions
The present study investigates verb naming in individuals with semantic dementia in
comparison with neurologically normal control participants. As expected, persons with SD
named fewer verbs correctly when compared to control participants. Neurophysiologically,
the lexical-semantic representation of verbs is processed in frontal regions such as left
premotor cortex, whereas the representation of nouns is processed more posteriorly such as in
left anterior and medial temporal cortex (Shapiro & Caramazza, 2003). Various investigators
have studied verbs in persons with SD. While some studies reveal that nouns are more
affected than verbs (Hillis, Sangjin, & Ken, 2004), others reveal the opposite trend (Hyon-
Ah, Moore & Grossman, 2007). While the present study does not compare verb vs. noun
naming, studies do support findings that verbs are indeed affected in persons with SD.
Disproportionate impairment in naming verbs has generally been observed in patients with
frontal lesions and non fluent aphasias, whereas selective impairment in naming nouns has
generally been observed in patients with posterior temporal lesions and fluent aphasias
(Damasio & Tranel, 1993).
The study also revealed that persons with SD do not show any differences in
performance between transitive and intransitive verbs. Price and Grossman (2005) concluded
from their study that persons with fronto-temporal dementia were insensitive to violations of
transitive agreement. Various different types of errors were observed in our study as have
been illustrated with examples. Cotelli et al. (2006) have also reported errors such as
semantic paraphasias, semantically unrelated paraphasias, neologisms, substitution with noun
for verb (static misnaming) and anomia in their study.
Priming or cuing was carried out to determine whether the representation and
automatic access of lexical semantic information was intact in subject or not. Repetition and
semantic cues were not very effective in eliciting names of verbs in Telugu and English
among participants with SD in the present study.
We also conclude that persons with SD have more difficulty in verb naming in L2
(English) than in L1 (Telugu). Lexical-semantic errors were seen in both Telugu and English
among persons with SD. However code switching was observed only in response to English
verbal stimuli and code mixing in response to Telugu verbal stimuli. The present study
however uses a small sample and hence the generalizability may be limited. A larger study
involving bilingual persons with SD may provide clear and better insights.
Bak, T. & Hodges, J. R. (2001). Motor neurone disease, dementia and aphasia coincidence,
co-occurrence or continuum. Journal of Neurology, 248(4), 1432-1459.
Bak, T. H., O’Donovan, D. G., Xuereb, J. H., Boniface, S., & Hodges, J. R. (2001). Selective
impairment of verb processing associated with pathological changes in Brodmann
Areas 44 and 4 in the motor neurone disease– dementia–aphasia syndrome. Brain, 124,
Beyn, E. S. & Vlasenko, I. T. (1974). Verbal paraphasias of aphasic patient in the course of
naming actions. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 9,
Bhan, S. (2000). Naming of motion verbs in fluent and nonfluent aphasiac adults.
Unpublished doctoral dissertation submitted to the Osmania University, Hyderabad.
Bright, P., Moss, H. E., Stamatakis E. A., & Tyler, L. K. (2008). Longitudinal studies of
semantic dementia: The relationship between structural and functional changes over
time. Neuropsychologia, 46, 2177–2188.
Clark, D. G., Charuvastra, A., Miller, B., Shapira, J. S., & Mendez, M. (2005). Fluent versus
nonfluent primary progressive aphasia: A comparison of clinical and functional
neuroimaging features. Brain and Language, 94 (1), 54-60
Cotelli, M., Borroni, B., Meanenti, R. et al. (2006). Action and object naming in
degeneration, Neuropsychology, 20(5), 558–565.
Damasio, A. R. & Tranel, D. (1993). Nouns and verbs are retrieved with differently
distributed neural systems. Proceedings of National Academic Society, 90(11), 4957–
Garrard, P., Patterson, K., Watson, P., & Hodges, J. (1998). Category specific semantic loss
in dementia of Alzheimer’s type. Brain, 121, 633–646.
Gorno-Tempini, M. L., Dronkers, N. F., Rankin, K. P., Ogar, J. M., Phengrasamy, L., Rosen,
H. J., Johnson, J. K., Weiner, M. W., & Miller, B.L. (2004). Cognition and anatomy in
three variants of PPA. Annals of Neurology, 55 (3), 335-346.
Grosjean, F. (1989). Neurolinguists, beware! The bilingual is not two monolingual speakers
in one person. Brain and Language, 36(1), 3–15.
Hillis A. E., Sangjin, O. & Ken, L. (2004). Deterioration of naming nouns versus verbs in
primary progressive aphasia. Annals of Neurology, 55, 268-275.
Hodges, J. R., Patterson, K., Oxbury, S., & Funnell, E. (1992). Semantic Dementia:
progressive fluent aphasia with temporal lobe atrophy. Brain, 115, 1783-1806.
Hyon-Ah, B. Y., Moore, P., & Grossman, M. (2007). Reversal of the concreteness effect for
verbs in patients with semantic dementia. Neuropsychology, 21(1), 9-19.
Lorenzen, B. & Murray, L. (2008). Bilingual Aphasia: A Theoretical and Clinical Review.
American Journal of Speech and Language Pathology, 17, 299–317.
Matzig, S., Druks, J., Masterson, J., & Vigliocc, G. (2008). Noun and verb differences in
picture naming: Past studies and new evidence. Cortex, 45, 738-758.
Mesulam, M. M. (2001). Primary progressive aphasia. Annals of Neurology, 49 (4), 2001,
Mesulam, M. M. (2003). Primary Progressive Aphasia – A Language-Based Dementia. New
England Journal of Medicine, 349(16), 1535-1542.
Mummery, C. J., Patterson, K. E., Price, C. J., & Hodges, J. R. (2000). A voxel-based
morphometry study of semantic dementia: Relationship between temporal lobe atrophy
and semantic memory. Annals of Neurology, 47, 36–45.
Neary, M. D., Snowden, J. S., Gustafson, L. et al. (1998). Frontotemporal Lobar
Degeneration: A consensus on clinical diagnostic criteria. Neurology, 51, 1546-1554.
Price, C. C. & Grossman, M. (2005). Verb agreements during online sentence processing in
Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. Brain and Language. 94, 217-232.
Rhee, J., Antiquena, P., & Grossman, M. (2001). Verb comprehension in frontotemporal
degeneration: The role of grammatical, semantic and executive components.
Neurocase, 7(2), 173–184.
Robinson, K. M., Grossman, M., White-Devine, T., & D’Esposito, M. (1996). Categoryspecific difficulty naming with verbs in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology, 47, 178–182.
Rosen, H. J., Gorno-Tempini, M. L., Goldman, W. P., Perry, R. J., Schuff, N., Weiner, M., et
al. (2002a). Patterns of brain atrophy in frontotemporal dementia and semantic
dementia. Neurology, 58, 198–208.
Salvatierra, J., Roselli, M, Acevedo, A, & Duara, R. (2007). Verbal fluency in
bilingual/Spanish/English Alzheimer’s Disease patients. American Journal of
Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias, 22(3), 190-201.
Shapiro, K. & Caramazza, A. (2003). Grammatical processing of nouns and verbs in left
frontal cortex. Neuropsychologia, 41(9), 1189–1198.
Silveri, M. C., & Ciccarelli, M. (2007). Naming of grammatical classes in frontotemporal
dementias: linguistic and non linguistic factors contribute to noun-verb dissociation.
Behavioural Neurology, 18, 197–206.
Silveri, M. C., Perri, R., & Cappa, A. (2003). Grammatical class effects in brain-damaged
patients: functional locus of nouns and verb deficits. Brain and Language, 85, 49–66.
Warrington, E. K. & McCarthy, R. (1983). Category specific access dysphasia, Brain, 106,
Warrington, E. K. & McCarthy, R. (1987). Categories of knowledge: Further fractionation
and an attempted integration. Brain, 110, 1273–1296.
Warrington, E. K. (1975). Verbs and nouns: A review of the literature. Journal of
Neurolinguistics, 15, 289-315.
Warrington, E. K., & Shallice, T. (1984). Category specific semantic impairments. Brain,
White-Devine, T., Grossman, M., Robinson, K. M., Onishi, K., & Biassou, N. (1996). Verb
confrontation naming and word–picture matching in AD. Neuropsychology, 10, 495–