Abstract

We report on two brain-damaged patients who show contrasting patterns of deficits in memory and language functioning. One patient (AW) suffers from a lexical retrieval deficit and failed to produce many irregularly inflected words such as spun, forgotten, andmice, but demonstrated intact production of regularly inflected words such aswalked andrats. She also had preserved declarative memory for facts and events. The other patient (VP) presented with a severe declarative memory deficit but showed no signs of impairment in producing either regular or irregular inflections. These patterns of deficits reveal that the retrieval of irregular inflections proceeds relatively autonomously with respect to declarative memory. We interpret these deficits with reference to three current theories of lexical structure: (a) Pinker's “words and rules” account, which assumes distinct mechanisms for processing regular and irregular inflections and proposes that lexical and semantic processing are subserved by distinct but interacting cognitive systems; (b) Ullman's “declarative/procedural” model, which assumes that mechanisms for the retrieval of irregular inflections are part of declarative memory; (c) Joanisse and Seidenberg's connectionist model, in which semantic information is critical for the retrieval of irregular inflections.

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