Syntactic processing and Broca’s area have often been thought to go hand in hand, since unexpected research in the 1970s suggested that patients with Broca’s aphasia had trouble understanding complex sentences (Caramazza et al, 1976). This view was soon questioned by subsequent works which demonstrated that Broca’s aphasics could make good grammaticality judgements (Linebarger et al, 1983). The neurolinguistic community reacted with many new ideas as to whether Broca’s area was in fact involved in syntactic processing.
In 1986, Grodzinsky proposed that Broca’s area only supports a restricted component of syntax (Grodzinsky, 1986). He suggested a new structural account of agrammatism in which he analysed the language deficit in terms of other theories of syntax that were current at the time: a support of the Trace-Deletion Hypothesis for agrammatic comprehension. This theory was proposed in order to shed light on the causes for syntactically selective comprehension impairment in patients suffering from agrammatism (Grodzinsky, 1990). He invokes the trace theory in characterization of aphasic deficits as he notes that linguistically significant generalisations can be harmonious with the representation of language in the brain.
Grodzinsky believes that a small change in the syntactic model - caused by a special condition known as a ‘trace’ being implemented on construct - results in a model which accounts for all agrammatism data at hand. His view states that constructions which contain elements that undergo movement from subject position are not likely to cause issues for the agrammatic patient’s comprehension. It would only be problematic if constructions are used which involve movement from object position, and if patients are predicted to perform at a chance level.
However, in 2000, Grodzinsky published a new paper which proposed a new view of the functional role of the left anterior cortex in language use (Grodzinsky, 2000). By examining agrammatic studies, including sentence comprehension experiments, cross-linguistic considerations, grammaticality and plausibility judgements, real time processing of complex sentences and rehabilitation, Grodzinsky re-examines the redefined centres view and develops his 1986 approach. His new theory suggests that most syntax thought to be in or around Broca’s area isn’t in fact there.
This paper will explore the 2000 view of Grodzinsky and how his opinion of the function of Broca’s area has developed since his 1986 paper. It will aim to provide reasoning for these developments, and suggest whether Grodzinsky’s goals have changed or if the 2000 view is consistent with the 1986 counterpart.
2. Main developments since 1986
Grodzinsky’s 2000 paper presents a much more abstract and precise approach in order to accommodate the performance patterns and the cross-linguistic variation in agrammatism. This expanded view makes new conclusions about the function of Broca’s area in syntax: that syntax once assumed to be in Broca’s area is in fact somewhere else; the cerebral region implicated in Broca’s area has a more specific role in syntactic processing; and that syntactic abilities more widespread in left hemisphere than previously thought.
Grodzinsky argues that the two types of aphasic deficits that are possible (processing deficit and structural deficit) could stem from different sources (1986). He also mentions that the production problems that aphasic patients make are similar to the agreement problems that occur during comprehension, and this could suggest that the resource used for both actions are the same, emphasising the link between