The effect of syntax on reading in neglect dyslexia

Naama Friedmann*, Lital Tzailer-Gross, Aviah Gvion

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals with text-based neglect dyslexia omit words on the neglected side of the sentence or text, usually on the left side. This study tested whether the syntactic structure of the target sentence affects reading in this type of neglect dyslexia. Because Hebrew is read from right to left, it enables testing whether the beginning of the sentence and its syntactic properties determine if the final, leftmost, constituent is omitted or not. The participants were 7 Hebrew-speaking individuals with acquired left text-based neglect dyslexia, without syntactic impairments. Each participant read 310 sentences, in which we compared 5 types of minimal pairs of sentences that differed in the obligatoriness of the final (left) constituent. Complements were compared with adjuncts, obligatory pronouns were compared with optional resumptive pronouns, and the object of a past tense verb was compared with the object of a present tense verb, which can also be taken to be an adjective, which does not require an object. Questions that require a verb were compared with questions that can appear without a verb, and clauses that serve as sentential complements of a verb were compared with coordinated clauses, which are not required by the verb. In addition, we compared the reading of noun sequences to the reading of meaningful sentences, and assessed the neglect point in reading 2 texts. The results clearly indicated that the syntactic knowledge of the readers with neglect dyslexia modulated their sentence reading. They tended to keep on reading as long as the syntactic and lexical-syntactic requirements of the sentence had not been met. In 4 of the conditions twice as many omissions occurred when the final constituent was optional than when it was obligatory. Text reading was also guided by a search for a "happy end" that does not violate syntactic or semantic requirements. Thus, the syntactic structure of the target sentence modulates reading and neglect errors in text-based neglect dyslexia, suggesting that the best stimuli to diagnose mild text-based neglect dyslexia are sentences in which the leftmost constituent is optional, and not required by syntax. Another finding of this study is dissociation between neglect dyslexia at the text and at the word levels. Two of the participants had neglect dyslexia at the text level, manifested in omissions of words on the left side of text, without neglect dyslexia at the word level (namely, without omissions, substitutions, or additions of letters on the left side of words).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2803-2816
Number of pages14
Issue number10
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Hebrew
  • Neglect dyslexia
  • Reading
  • Syntax


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