Original Research

Agrammatic aphasia verb and argument patterns in Kiswahili-English spontaneous language

Hillary K. Sang
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 62, No 1 | a89 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v62i1.89 | © 2015 Hillary K. Sang | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 April 2014 | Published: 08 June 2015

About the author(s)

Hillary K. Sang, Department of Linguistics, Moi University, Kenya


Background: The spontaneous and narrative language of Kiswahili agrammatic aphasic and non-brain-damaged speakers was analysed. The bilingual participants were also tested in English to enable comparisons of verb production in the two languages. The significance of this study was to characterise bilingual Kiswahili-English spontaneous agrammatic output. This was done by describing Kiswahili-English bilingual output data with a specific focus on the production of verbs. The description involves comparison of verb and argument production in Kiswahili and English.

Methods and procedures: The participants recruited for this study were drawn from two groups of participants (six non-fluent aphasic/agrammatic speakers and six non-braindamaged). From each participant, a sample of spontaneous output was tape-recorded in English and Kiswahili based on the description and narration of the Flood rescue picture’ and the ‘Cookie theft picture’. The data elicited were compared for each subject and between the participants and relevant verb parameters have been analysed. The variables that were studied included mean length of utterance (MLU), inflectional errors, verb tokens and types, copulas and auxiliaries. Further, all verbs produced were classified as per their argument structure.

Results: The results from English data supported previous findings on agrammatic output. The agrammatic participants produced utterances with shorter MLU and simpler sentence structure. However, Kiswahili data surprisingly showed reversed results, with agrammatic speakers producing longer utterances than non-brain-damaged (NBD) controls. The results also revealed selective impairment in some agrammatic speakers who made inflectional errors. The verb argument structure showed contrasting results, with agrammatic speakers preferring transitive verbs whilst the NBD speakers used more intransitive verbs.

Conclusions: The study attempts for the first time to characterise English-Kiswahili bilingual spontaneous and narrative output. A quantitative analysis of verb and argument production is conducted. The results of the English data are consistent with those in the literature; agrammatic speakers produce utterances with shorter MLU and simpler sentence structure. However, Kiswahili data reveals a surprisingly reversed pattern most notably with respect to MLU with agrammatics producing longer utterances than NBD controls. Argument structure analysis revealed that agrammatics used more transitive verbs than intransitives.


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