Extended Projections in Agrammatism

Monica Sanchez


This paper is concerned with agrammatic production and the implications these data have for the theory of syntactic features. Agrammatism, a type of language breakdown, is usually characterized by a significantly higher rate of omission of functional categories than of lexical categories. Agrammatics also display significantly greater difficulty with verbal categories than with nominal categories. This behavior is consistent with Dechaine's (1993) functional/lexical and nominal/verbal syntactic distinctions: functional elements are [+Functional]; nominal elements are [+Nominal]; lexical and verbal elements are unspecified for [Functional] and [Nominal], respectively. However, these features do not provide a unified account of these two agrammatic characteristics. This paper argues that [Verbal] and [Functional] are the requisite features and that agrammatism is governed by a theory of robustness whereby the more feature specifications a category has, the more robust it is, and the easier it is to access. Thus, agrammatic behavior is characterized as better retention of robust categories. Lastly, this paper argues for a syntactic distinction between copulas and auxiliaries, whereby copulas have an independent theta-grid but auxiliaries do not, in order to explain the more frequent omission of auxiliaries as compared to copulas.

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