Cognitive Science GIDP
Neurology Department of Istanbul University Hospitals in Capa, Istanbul
On Site Research Dates:
Title of Research Project:
"Compound derivation and representation in Turkish speaking aphasics"
In the summer of 2012, I spent 6 weeks in Istanbul to conduct research with Turkish speaking individuals with aphasia, an adult language disorder that results from damage to language areas in the left hemisphere of the brain, mostly due to a stroke. I spent most of my days visiting the Neuropsychology Lab within the Neurology Department of Istanbul University Hospitals in Çapa, Istanbul, where I met several individuals who visit this lab for speech rehabilitation and treatment. During the initial weeks of my stay, I was an observer in Öget Öktem-Tanör’s lab. This was one of the most rewarding experiences in my academic career. I learned about aphasia diagnosis and treatment techniques for Turkish patients, had a chance to interact with numerous individuals with different types of aphasia, and recruited participants for my own research. Prof. Öktem-Tanör is a distinguished person, who truly cares about both her patients and her students. She was very supportive of my research, helping me recruit participants and providing me with access to her lab resources.
I recruited 8 participants for my research, 4 with Broca’s aphasia and 4 with conduction aphasia. These two types of aphasia fundamentally differ from one another in the degrees of agrammatism (impairment in the processing of sentence structures) as well as word retrieval. Individuals with Broca’s aphasia show higher levels of agrammatism and have difficulty recalling words. Individuals with conduction aphasia, on the other hand, show relatively more fluent speech and have difficulty repeating words. I had sessions with 6 of the participants at the Istanbul University Hospitals and visited 2 of them in their homes. First, I gave them a standard diagnostic test to see their general performance in speech comprehension and production, word naming and retrieval and repetition. Next, I gave them a test that aims to elicit person suffixes in Turkish. This involved asking the participants to complete a set of sentences and phrases, in which such suffixes were missing.
Next, I conducted some tasks that look at compound word formation, which also involve a controversial person agreement suffix in Turkish. This task involved (i) naming compound nouns (e.g. “tooth brush”) that already exist in the language and (ii) forming new compound nouns. In the new compound formation task, the subjects were shown a set of three pictures. For example, they first saw a picture of a basket with bread in it. Then, they heard, “There is bread in this basket. Therefore, it is a bread-basket (an existing compound). If this is a bread-basket, then what is this?” as they were shown the second picture of the set, which had flowers in the same basket. The subjects were expected to say “flower-basket” (another existing compound). If they failed to do so, the first noun of the compound was given. Finally, they saw a basket with cats in it and heard the instruction: “If this is a bread-basket and that is a flower-basket, then what is this?” They were expected to say “cat-basket” (a novel compound). The goal of this task was to see whether there is any interaction between agreement marking in general and compound noun formation. An initial look at the results shows that this was indeed the case.
Finally, I asked the subjects to repeat, read and write a list of words that included frequent compounds, novel compounds, complex words (e.g. “transformation”), semantically transparent compounds (e.g. “tooth brush”) as well as semantically opaque compounds (e.g. “pineapple”). All three experiments will constitute a part of my dissertation to be submitted to the Department of Linguistics by Spring 2013.
My trip to Istanbul, Turkey was very productive and successful, and I returned with a fair amount of data and new research goals. My plan is to go back there again in the near future to conduct sessions with more individuals with aphasia with an additional set of new research questions. This trip was a costly one with an international plane ticket, part of which was covered by Raphael & Jolene Gruener Research Travel Award. I am grateful to GIDP for giving me this opportunity, which has definitely been a remarkable experience for me. I am also very pleased that my trip to Istanbul University Hospitals has been a fitting example of interdisciplinary research, bringing cognitive neuroscience and linguistics together as supported and encouraged by the Grueners.