Spoken Language Comprehension
An Experimental Approach to Disordered and Normal Processing
Spoken Language Comprehension is the first coherent presentation of an original detailed experimental and theoretical account of what are rationally taken to be "online" processing deficits that lie at the core of aphasic miscomprehension. It presents exciting work that is highly relevant to the important current debate about the nature of aphasic comprehension impairment and its relationship to models of normal functioning. Lorraine K. Tyler focuses on a crucial but neglected aspect of language disorders: how the real-time analysis processes involved in comprehending spoken language break down in acquired aphasia. She describes a new approach to the study of language disorders that specifies the processes involved in the immediate construction of various types of linguistic representations. Her unique large-scale analysis makes possible the evaluation of various theoretical accounts of the underlying basis of different kinds of aphasic deficits. By developing a set of experimental tests designed to detect specific deficits in the principal categories of real-time comprehension, Tyler constructs a processing profile of ten patients that shows where each patient performs normally and where performance breaks down. This provides a detailed picture of a patient's ability to perform the appropriate analyses of speech input: breaking down the speech signal, recognizing words, making the appropriate form-function mapping, and constructing the appropriate types of higher-level representations (syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and prosodic). Data from standard tests of comprehension deficits are also included, which permits comparison of performance in various tasks and among patients to see where differences and similarities emerge.