Written language is an evolutionarily recent human invention; consequently, its neural substrates cannot be determined by the genetic code. How, then, does the brain incorporate skills of this type? One possibility is that written language is dependent on evolutionarily older skills, such as spoken language; another is that dedicated substrates develop with expertise. If written language does depend on spoken language, then acquired deficits of spoken and written language should necessarily co-occur. Alternatively, if at least some substrates are dedicated to written language, such deficits may doubly dissociate. We report on 5 individuals with aphasia, documenting a double dissociation in which the production of affixes (e.g., the -ing in jumping) is disrupted in writing but not speaking or vice versa. The findings reveal that written- and spoken-language systems are considerably independent from the standpoint of morpho-orthographic operations. Understanding this independence of the orthographic system in adults has implications for the education and rehabilitation of people with written-language deficits.
Source: Association for Psychological Science