A new study detailed in Aphasiology looks specifically at verbs and aphasia. Action words give a sentence structure, letting us know who is doing what. But verbs fall into different categories, and some are more difficult to retrieve and use than others. This study works to determine what makes some types of verbs more difficult to remember and use.
Some verbs require the user to provide more information. Take, for instance, the verb “to bake.” You can say “she is baking” to let people know that a person is occupied and performing an activity. But more frequently, you’re expected to provide additional information to give context or meaning. In this case, you’re expected to state “what” the person is baking: “She is baking a pie.”
Or take the word “love.” It’s grammatically correct to say, “Bob loves.” But it doesn’t give us enough information. We need to know who John loves: “Bob loves Joan.”
Or the verb “put.” You can say, “He put,” but it’s going to invite more questions. What did he put and where did he put it? You need to add to the sentence: “He put the pie on the windowsill.”
In linguistics, this is called an argument. A verb argument is a word or words (or a short phrase or phrases) that give additional information about the action. In that last sentence “the pie” and “on the windowsill” are both arguments.
And that is what the researchers are looking at with the study: the best verbs that speech therapists or neurologists can use so clients have greater success when relearning how to form sentences.
They determined that people with certain types of aphasia can quickly recall and repeat single verbs that don’t require additional words to convey all the necessary information. They can also use those words in a sentence. But words that have one or more arguments (remember: additional words or phrases that give necessary information to understand the verb) are harder to recall and harder to use in a sentence. It is easier to remember and use, “He is jumping” or “she is sitting” than it is to remember, “He is watching.” Therefore, speech therapists can begin by using “to jump” or “to sit” before moving to verbs such as “to watch” in order to build success.