Long and short passives in Catalan and Spanish

Anna Gavarró, Horacio Dotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Poor comprehension of verbal passives in agrammatism is well attested; however, short passives have been seldom investigated, only for some Germanic languages.Aims: Here we investigate long and short passives in two Romance languages, Catalan and Spanish and, consider the implications of our results for our understanding of comprehension deficits in Broca's aphasia and for the theoretical construal of passive sentences. We test the hypothesis that long and short passives are equally misunderstood because their underlying structures are more similar than their surface form may indicate.Methods: To that effect, we designed a truth-value judgement task and tested fourteen patients with Broca's aphasia, seven speakers per language.Results: We show that long and short passives are equally miscomprehended, consistently across the two languages and speakers: patients performed at chance with both types of passives, while they performed above chance with active sentences.Conclusion: The results for Romance are in line with those previously found for English (the only formerly investigated Germanic language with the same word order as Spanish and Catalan). The indistinguishable performance with long and short passives provides an argument to be added to those in the linguistic literature for the analysis of short passives as involving a covert external argument. It also provides an argument for structural accounts over processing accounts of the comprehension deficit of Broca's aphasia. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-98
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Broca's aphasia
  • Catalan
  • Implicit external argument
  • Long passives
  • Short passives
  • Spanish


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