Event Abstract

Compound production in aphasia: Contributions of semantic transparency and imageability

  • 1 University of Reading, United Kingdom
  • 2 UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Norway

Introduction: The meaning of compound words can be more or less predictable from their constituents, e.g., “meatball” (transparent compound), “strawberry” (partially opaque compound) or “hogwash (opaque compound, e.g., Libben, 2014). Compound processing with healthy adults has shown that transparency interacts with other properties of compounds (e.g., frequency, left- or right-headedness (Gagné & Shoben, 1997; Gagné & Spalding, 2014). Researchers have suggested that compound processing involves identifying the constituent words first, and attempting to integrate their meaning at a second stage (e.g., Ji et al., 2011). Because the meaning of the compound as a whole is activated in parallel, non-transparency in the constituent to compound relationship entails a conflict between the meaning that is stored and that which is computed online, incurring a processing cost. This phenomenon, which arguably cuts across lexical and conceptual semantics, is relevant for people with aphasia (PWA), who typically experience difficulties accessing and manipulating semantic information. We investigated the role of transparency in compound production (i.e., reading aloud) in PWA, and compare their performance with Healthy Adults (HA). Methods: 11 PWA (single left CVA, fluent and nonfluent presentations, Mean age= 64.7, SD= 10.9) and 17 age- and education-matched HA (Mean age= 64.1, SD= 9.5) monolingual British English individuals. Stimuli: 90 items divided in three categories: transparent compounds, opaque compounds, and monomorphemic (i.e., non-complex) words (Ji et al., 2011), matched groupwise for length (letters and syllables), surface and lemma frequency. Participants were required to read aloud the words when they appeared on a laptop screen, with a 5-second timeout. Reading accuracy was calculated for both groups; RTs were only considered for the HAs. The PWA group completed additional testing to assess conceptual and lexical-semantic skills (e.g., Pyramids and Palm Tree-three written word version, Howard & Patterson, 1992; Reading Aloud of Words with varying imageability and frequency, Kay, Lesser, & Coltheart, 1992, PALPA 31). Results and Discussion: A first analysis revealed that HAs processed compounds faster and more accurately than matched monomorphemes, replicating the compound advantage found in previous studies (Ji et al., 2011). However, no differences emerged as a function of transparency. In the PWA group, there was no difference between monomorphemes and transparent compounds, but both were processed more accurately than opaque compounds (see Table 1). A transparency effect (i.e., difference in performance between opaque and transparent compounds) correlated positively with imageability effects (i.e., difference in performance between high and low imageability words on background testing) for PWA. In a second analysis, we factored newly collected native speaker ratings of the stimuli’s imageability, including both transparency and imageability as continuous variables. The direction of the effects did not change, but imageability positively correlated with accuracy in both groups, and with shorter RTs in the HA. A large part of the variation previously accounted for by transparency is explained by imageability. These results suggest semantic transparency effects in compound processing are modulated by the imageability of these words, an interaction which lies at the interface between lexical and conceptual semantics.

Figure 1



Gagné, C. L., & Shoben, E. J. (1997). The influence of thematic relations on the comprehension of modifier-noun combinations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 23, 71–87.

Gagné, C. L., & Spalding, T. L. (2014). Conceptual composition: The role of relational competition in the comprehension of modifier-noun phrases and noun-noun compounds. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 59, pp. 97–130). New York: Elsevier.

Howard, D., & Patterson, K. (1992). Pyramids and Palm Trees: A test of semantic access from pictures and words. Bury St. Edmunds, UK: Thames Valley Test Company.

Ji, H., Gagne, C. L., & Spalding, T. L. (2011). Benefits and costs of lexical decomposition and semantic integration during the processing of transparent and opaque English compounds. Journal of Memory and Language, 65, 406-430.

Kay, J., Lesser, R., & Coltheart, M. (1992). Psycholinguistic Assessment of Language Processing in Aphasia (PALPA). Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Libben, G. (2014). The nature of compounds: A psychocentric perspective. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 31(1–2), 8–25.

Keywords: compound words, Transparency, Imageability, reading, Aphasia

Conference: Academy of Aphasia 56th Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada, 21 Oct - 23 Oct, 2018.

Presentation Type: oral presentation

Topic: not eligible for a student prize

Citation: Bose A, González Alonso J and Meteyard L (2019). Compound production in aphasia: Contributions of semantic transparency and imageability. Conference Abstract: Academy of Aphasia 56th Annual Meeting. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2018.228.00028

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Received: 17 Apr 2018; Published Online: 22 Jan 2019.

* Correspondence: Dr. Arpita Bose, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom, a.bose@reading.ac.uk