Agrammatism is difficulty with using basic grammar and syntax, or word order and sentence structure. It is a common feature in the speech of people with aphasia, especially Broca’s (non-fluent) aphasia.
People with aphasia are often able to use “content” words like nouns and verbs. However, they find it difficult to use “little” words, or function words. Examples are:
- articles: “the,” “a”
- prepositions: “in,” “on”
- helping/auxiliary verbs: “is,” “are”
It can also be hard for people with aphasia to use grammatical structures and word “inflections.” Inflections are how we change a word to change its meaning or tense. Examples include:
- adding “-ed” or “ing” to a verb to change its tense
- adding “s” to a noun to make it plural
- using correct pronouns
Agrammatism also makes it hard to put words in the right order. This can be especially difficult in questions, when word order is reversed in English.
Because of this, people with aphasia often speak in mostly nouns and verbs. This is called “telegraphic speech” – so called because it resembles the writing that was used in telegrams. For instance, someone with aphasia might say “Daughter go store, buy ice cream.” It is easy to understand the main message although it is not a complete sentence.