Connectionist theories of language propose that written language deficits arise as a result of damage to semantic and phonological systems that also support spoken language production and comprehension, a view referred to as the “primary systems” hypothesis. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the primary systems account in a mixed group of individuals with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) by investigating the relation between measures of nonorthographic semantic and phonological processing and written language performance and by examining whether common patterns of cortical atrophy underlie impairments in spoken versus written language domains. Individuals with PPA and healthy controls were administered a language battery, including assessments of semantics, phonology, reading, and spelling. Voxel-based morphometry was used to examine the relation between gray matter volumes and language measures within brain regions previously implicated in semantic and phonological processing. In accordance with the primary systems account, our findings indicate that spoken language performance is strongly predictive of reading/spelling profile in individuals with PPA and suggest that common networks of critical left hemisphere regions support central semantic and phonological processes recruited for spoken and written language.

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