Re: Broca's Brain Was: Any thoughts?

Timothy Mason (mason@CIE.FR)
Sat, 3 Aug 1996 18:17:00 -0500

-- [ From: Timothy Mason * EMC.Ver #2.5.02 ] --

>From Timothy Mason

Chris Braiotta asks
>Could it be Broca of "Broca's Aphasia?" That's one of the speech defects
that occurs when someone >has a stroke in the proper part of the brain. It's
direct opposite is Wernicke's aphasia. One of them >makes it so that the
speaker can think of words to use, but can't use proper syntax, and the
other >causes the speaker to speak with good syntax, but improper word
choice. I forget which one is >which.

Broca's aphasia appears to be breakdown in the capacity to construct
grammatically structured utterances. A person suffering from Wernicke's
aphasia can be extremely fluent, but there is a breakdown in meaning - often
accompanied by the production of non-existent words.

Might it not be possible to caricaturize this in Chomskyian terms? The
patient with Broca's aphasia has suffered a break-down in her Chomsky box.
The Chomsky box of the person with Wernicke's aphasia, on the other hand,
works just fine - she can produce sentences like 'Colourless green ideas
sleep furiously,' until the cows come home. But she does not communicate.

It also appears that the person suffering from Broca's aphasia is aware of
the problem and does all she can to overcome it - she still attempts to
function as a member of a linguistic community. The person with Wernicke's
aphasia - in full possession of her Chomsky box - does not know why people
do not understand her, and often develops paranoid and schizophrenic
symptoms. I would suggest - extremely tentatively - that this may throw some
critical light on the Chomskyian equation of language with formal grammar.

Best Wishes
Timothy Mason