The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 11/5 - Maria Giavazzi

Speaker: Maria Giavazzi (CNRS)
Title: A linguistic deficit in Huntington’s disease? Preliminary evidence from a dissociation between production and perception in a morpho-phonological task
Date/Time: Monday, Nov 5, 5pm
Location: 32-D831

There is a lively debate in the recent literature about whether the striatum holds a specific role in linguistic processing, or whether it contributes to linguistic processing indirectly, through its role in executive control, memory and attention (Ulmann 2004; Teichmann et al. 2005, 2008; Chan et al. 2012; Mestres-Missé et al. 2012).

Huntington’s Disease (HD) offers a unique model of primarily atrophy of the striatum with simultaneous decline in various cognitive functions. Although language impairment in this disease has been described in the literature (Teichmann et al., 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, Sambin et al. 2012), evidence is scattered and the specific nature of the deficit has yet to be understood.

In this talk I present data from two experiments conducted with French HD patients. The experiments tested the morphophonological knowledge of the patients, looking specifically at gender alternations within the adjectival paradigm (e.g. [petit] FEM- [peti] MASC ‘small’ ). Although patients had been previously reported to be impaired in a similar task, I show that the deficit is present in a production task, but absent in perception (grammaticality judgment task). I discuss a possible grammatical explanation for this data and try to put it in the wider context of the role of the striatum in language and other linguistic deficits observed in this disease.

Data collection was completed only very recently and its analysis is still in its early stages. I am looking forward to comments and discussion.