We examined the effect of localized brain lesions on processing of the basic speech acts (BSAs) of question, assertion, request, and command. Both left and right cerebral damage produced significant deficits relative to normal controls, and left brain damaged patients performed worse than patients with right-sided lesions. This finding argues against the common conjecture that the right hemisphere of most right-handers plays a dominant role in natural language pragmatics. In right-hemisphere damaged patients, there was no correlation between location and extent of lesion in perisylvian cortex and performance on BSAs. By contrast, processing of the different BSAs by left hemisphere-damaged patients was strongly affected by perisylvian lesion location, with each BSA showing a distinct pattern of localization. This finding raises the possibility that the classical left perisylvian localization of language functions, as measured by clinical aphasia batteries, partly reflects the localization of the BSAs required to perform these functions.
- Speech acts