Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 237–253 | Cite as

The On-Line Processing of Verb-Phrase Ellipsis in Aphasia

  • Josée Poirier
  • Lewis P. Shapiro
  • Tracy Love
  • Yosef Grodzinsky
Open Access


We investigate the on-line processing of verb-phrase ellipsis (VPE) constructions in two brain injured populations: Broca’s and Anomic aphasics. VPE constructions are built from two simple clauses; the first is the antecedent clause and the second is the ellipsis clause. The ellipsis clause is missing its verb and object (i.e., its verb phrase (VP)), which receives its reference from the fully specified VP in the antecedent clause. VPE constructions are unlike other sentence types that require displacement of an argument NP; these latter constructions (e.g., object-relatives, wh-questions) yield either on-time or delayed antecedent reactivation. Our results demonstrate that Anomics, like unimpaired individuals, evince reactivation of the direct object NP (within the VP) at the elided position. Broca’s patients, on the other hand, do not show reactivation of the antecedent. We consider several interpretations for our data, including explanations focusing on the larger ‘grain size’ of the reconstructed material in the ellipsis clause, the properties of the auxiliary that carries tense and agreement features, and the possibility that the cost-free syntactic copy procedure claimed to underlie VPE may be modulated by the functional deficit in Broca’s aphasia.


Aphasia Sentence processing Verb-phrase ellipsis Aphasia classification 


Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josée Poirier
    • 1
  • Lewis P. Shapiro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tracy Love
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yosef Grodzinsky
    • 4
  1. 1.SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Language & Communicative DisordersSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.University of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA
  4. 4.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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