February 13, 2010

Whoever it is in charge of the recall desk here seems to be on holiday, at least I can’t find him when I need him. I’m often left searching for an expression, a word, a phrase — sometimes even an expression that I had within minutes  I’d read or heard just before. They are not all simple items: some are complex relations. Here are a few examples, from simple word recalls to complex negotiations, all from various phone conversations:

1. “frozen dinners…[pause]…Swanson”

intending: TV dinners — I had heard this expression the day before


2. “anything named inositol is … really too much”

intending: anything named inositol should arouse skepticism

(complex notion)

3. “[these tourists] figured this guy will … have an answer”

intended: they figured this guy will be sympathetic


4. cholesterol and pills

intended: medication


5. “You shouldn’t be flagellating yourself”

intending: you shouldn’t beat yourself up/punish yourself

(formula or word)

6. “If you don’t um…”

intending: if you don’t interview well


7. “He um … contracted with a detective’

intending: he hired a detective


8. “not to kill him but to … [thinking: manipulate?]

intending: mutilate


9. “he stole that beautiful…”

intended: Gainsborough (couldn’t recall Reynolds either)


10. “a jar … not a jar…of pills…”

intended: bottle (I didn’t believe that this was the correct word when it was suggested — this also happens often)



February 4, 2010

In addition to recorded speech below, I’ve noticed that I continue to drop verbs and prepositions, use present tense when past is required and meant, inflect non verbs as if verbs (‘I stilling here’ [meaning: I’m still here]) confuse ‘interesting with ‘interested’, confuse pronouns when there are too few many in the discourse, confuse opposites (e.g., ‘few’ for ‘many’) often can’t retrieve common expressions, scramble formulaic schemes (‘Don’t short yourself’ [meaning: Don’t sell yourself short]), and generally form sentences oddly and awkwardly, with less than optimal intention. And I speak more carefully, hesitantly and deliberately.

Sometime, I want to try to let my speech loose with someone, just to hear what it sounds like. But mostly, I’m guarded.

These are all in the last week since January 27:

1. I can’t go high that

meaning: I can’t go that high

2. You are the best listener [hesitation] I know anyone

meaning: You are the best listener anyone I know

[in conversation in person: two relative clauses]

3.Don’t short yourself

meaning: Dont’ sell yourself short

[alone: formulaic expression, dropped verb replacing adj for verb]

4. I think get most retroactive payments

meaning: I think I can get most retroactive payments

[phone conversation: dropped pronoun, second ‘I’]

5. You’re none of business

meaning: It’s none of your business

[phone conversation: dropped pronoun]

6. Now don’t fall me down me

meaning: Now don’t let me fall down

[alone: pleonastic pronoun]

7. That’s about of it

meaning: That’s about it

[formulaic expression]

8. because I don’t really work at it to make [hesitate, restart] I don’t try it to make simple

meaning: I don’t really work at making it simple; I don’t try to make it simple

[phone: dropped verbal inflection; scrambled?]

9. they became brothers like me

meaning: they became like brothers to me

[phone:scrambled formulaic expression]

10. you never quite sure

meaning: you’re never quite sure

[dropped verbal clitic]

11. somebody guy I like

meaning: somebody/ some guy I liked

[phone: pleonstic noun?]

12. just what you know, what you needs

meaning: just what you know he needs

[phone: confused pronouns]

13. I was the first person who  [pause, restart] He was the first person that I called him

meaning: He was the first person that i called him

[phone: confused topic with subject]

14. soiree, what’s it called [hesitant] a musicale

meaning: soiree, musicale

[phone: often I doubt my word choice, insisting there is a better, even though it appears that the choice is the right word]

15. you’ll be a great surgery

meaning: you’ll be a great surgeon

[phone: mischoice of derivation]


February 1, 2010

This morning our pick-up renaissance motet vocal quartet rehearsed. Reading this counterpoint at sight, I found no difference in musical skill since the stroke, either in finding pitch, time or word — and some of the Latin texts were unfamiliar too. While sightreading requires a complex of skills — time values, pitches, words and a contouring of melodic line — it’s without ideational content. That partly accounts for its pleasant, focused divertissement. There’s also no grammar.

Despite this blunt stroke, all in all the muse, along her dance, alit with subtle, deft, deliberate grace; yet one more a part of mind untouched and safe, apart and whole. So, some pools are quiet, well and still, at least.

A friend, conversing in the park two weeks after this stroke, asked that we leave the convex benches for concave benches, so we’d not have to turn our heads so sharply as we converse. When we approached the concave curve, he began to sit next on our same bench next to me. I quickly remind me explained that sitting together on the straight benches would have been no different from before — the benches all are straight, it’s only between the pairs of benches that they are angled acutely or obtusely — so we’d benefit only by sitting at the junctures between two benches…

[Seated facing right, the first pair of benches were obtuse ‘>’ versus the pair we found were acute facing right ‘<‘. ]

…as with quietly satisfaction I recognized that, regardless of any loss of speech, cognitive acuity has not dulled to obtuseness.

On the other hand, I find that in speech and writing I regularly omit the past tense inflection. Often, often.


January 30, 2010

Reading the New Yorker at the laudromat today, I stumbled at several sentences and had to backtrack. As usual, when I don’t follow I sentence a sentence, I quickly assume that the author is at fault. But, after many such experiences, I’ve come to understand and accept that it’s no fault of them, but the new me: the brain with same the old cognition, but the missing parser. It’s that old cognition that fools me each time. I know I can understand, so if I don’t get a sentence right away, it must be bad writing. I wonder how many Alzheimer’s feel just this way — I’m fine, the world is all awry and everyone in it daft.

Today, in any case, it occurred to me that maybe a large part of what accounts for the deficits is just short-term storage — holding on to a subject over many relative clauses before the verb, or holding onto a negation way high up in the sentence, remembering to interaction interact with a negation later down.

Not everything can account for short-term storage. The scrambling of formulaic phrases, dropped prepositions, dropped verbs, random arrangements of parts of speech, mistaken parts of speech — these are likely not all just an effect of a shortened store.

That does not entail that shortened store is not caused by some underlying structure or dynamic which also caused the rest of the deficits. One prop of a machine can disable storage independently from  retrieval and from branching. But I haven’t much more than straws in the wind what that prop might be.

significant results

January 29, 2010

The responses to the puzzle are in, and conclusive. The structure difficult to me is transparent to normal readers. I’m guessing, then, that I’m missing a key piece of syntax, what in formal machine jargon would be an element of the pushdown store, or in the informal jargon of formal languages, an ability to branch in the context-free grammar.

It’s the most interesting bit of information I’ve seen in all these weeks yet. For one thing, several deficits are common to the loss of a pushdown store: garbling of complex compounds like “white tablecloth,” frequent tip-of-the-tongue, common retrieval failures, agrammatical scrambling within the internal soliloquies, possibly the syncopation of verbs — all resemble this difficulty in holding onto the storing of the subject within a relative phrase and its verb separated by a relative clause.

It will also be interesting to see if this will be restored or will remain permanent. If it is permanent, then it is consistent with the hypothesis that the loss of aspects of developmental stage syntax cannot be recreated in adulthood. However, if it is recreated, then either it has been restored to its original state by recovery, or developmental stage syntax can been relearnt in adult. The latter would be surprising, though welcome. Anyway, I know what to work on.


January 27, 2010

I’ve been getting more promises on the “nuts” puzzle (see Jan. 25 below). To get closer at the question, I’ve tried a couple of alternate sentences with the same structure, but easier content.

Let me emphasize that the question for me is, how difficult or easy normal readers find these to comprehend, grammatically. They are tough for me: too many strings of noun phrases. But if normal readers find this confusing, then I should not bother investigating the structure further or find an explanation for my difficulty. If they find it easy, then I need to look at the structure carefully, not just out of linguistic curiosity, but to see if it can understand my deficits better or even help me towards fluency. That’s why it’s important to me.

So, consider a detective trying to get a confession from a murderer who made a bloody mess of a body:

1. “In other words, we need an information plan of interrogation in which the knowing murderer who alone has made the body bloodied will confess, in light of the interrogation’s information, that he is in fact guilty of that information.”

Or considering a light source that will hide a pigment:

2.”In other words, we need a means of light for which the affected pigment that makes it otherwise a texture visible will appear, within this kind of light, no longer visible.”

Or, with no discussion necessary:

3. “In other words, we need the generousity of forgiveness for which the faulted writer who made the sentence mangled will accept, recognizing our own faulted writing, that he is willing to be forgiven.”

If these are difficult, then I won’t pursue them. If they are easy, then they are an important clue to my current state of grammatical ability.


January 26, 2010

Formulaic structures have been failing lately. Below are only the most recent that I were able to record. There have been several more:

1. 1/25 “I got to need a pan”

intended: I need to get a pan

2. 1/26 “You’ll have a leg on it up” [this may not be perfectly transcribed]

intended: you’ll have a leg up on it

3.1/25 “Last this for a week”

intended: let this last for a week

4. 1/24 “You might favorite your own composer”

intended: you might have a favorite composer

— I’ve also had a few retrieval stumbles:

5. 1/25 “I don’t intend to lessen your…”

intending: I don’t intend to diminish your…

6. 1/25 “resistance to the Chomsky module…milieu…”

intending: resistance to the Chomsky program/project

7. 1/25 “gave me lipo…”

intending: gave me lipitor

— and a possible retrieval loss of a supplantive suppletive:

8. 1/25 “I look gooder today”

intending: I look better today

9. 1/26 “supplantive”

intending: suppletive

(Methodology: I’ve got little pieces of paper everywhere at home and a notepad with me outside.)

universal agrammar

January 26, 2010

A couple of alternative possible hypotheses about agrammaticality:

1. every grammatical loss is coordinated with a distinct grammatical function and a distinct neural network or even neural link: many grammatical deficits, many locations

2. all the grammatical losses are coordinated to some one underlying grammatical function and one neural network or neural modus operandi or even one neural link: one underlying grammatical source, one failed network or mode

3. some of the grammatical losses are coordinated, others are distinct: some consolidated underlying grammatical sources, some networks

Hypothesis (1) leads to the least information and interest; (2), the most, and (3) the most likely.

I’ve noticed a few related losses. Can any of these [be] characterized as one grammatical function (like “loss of functional elements”) without rendering the description meaningless (like “loss of grammar”)?

a) syncopation of “be”

b) syncopation of prepositions

c) tip-of-the-tongue retrieval failures

d) mistaken part of speech (adjective for noun)

e) loss of adages

f) tip-of-the-tongue compounds

g) pleonastic verb complexes

h) pleonastic particles and quantifiers (also, all)

i) “a close second” metathesis. I’m not sure how to describe: I jumped the second word?

j) wrong or too much grammatical structure, superfluous structure

k) preference for underived words (“depleted in nutrition” instead of the normal “nutritional depletion”)

l) agent/object conflation

m) agent/patient conflation

n) stress shift

o) loss of retrieval of familiar words

p) tipofthetongue familiar words

Some of these fall into natural categories, others suggest some underlying relation. Overall, there are two main categories, functional elements of syntax (be, pleonastic verbs and particles, syncopation of verbs, superfluous structure, agreement, agent/object and agent/patient conflation) and retrieval (compounds, tipofthetongue, loss of adages, familiar words). It’s suggestive then, that retrieval and syntax may be related mechanisms.  There’s some evidence that retrieval is a branching network, just as syntax clearly is.


January 25, 2010

Add to the long list of data: misplaced stress in polysyllabic polysyllables, possibly an effect of underived lexical choices — if the syntax is looking for a derived word, but retrieval surfaces underived, the phonology may stumble on the stress between the expected derived form and the underived given. Just speculating. But it would be interesting to provide evidence of the interaction, independence and order of the phonological component in relation to the syntax and the retrieval mechanism. Other than this and tipofthetongues (if tipofthetongues are phonologically misplaced retrievals), I haven’t noticed any effect of phonology in my speech post-stroke.

I haven’t record recorded [I noticed this uninflected verb much later, which I seemed to treat the ‘d’ as the past participial inflection, or maybe treated as the stem as a strong form] these misplaced stresses yet, though I hope to, since they are, at moments, frequent. Today [I] have been clear (until I just now wrote this syncopation of I). So maybe more deficit data will be forthcoming.


January 25, 2010

For over  a week, I’ve been trying, from time to time, to figure out one sentence in Kirkham’s Theories of Truth.  It seems like a test of syntactic limits, unless Kirkham’s sentence is actually nonsense. (After all, his editor regularly allowed “the affect on” when he should have written “the effect on.”) So, it matters. Now I think I might have cracked his sentence. But I’m not sure, especially because the verbal construction sounds very tenuous English. Here’s Kirkham’s sentence:

“To put another way, we need a theory of truth in which the very contingent facts that would otherwise make a sentence paradoxical will show, in conjunction with the theory, that in  fact the sentence has no truth value.”

I’d like someone to try this one. In fact, I’d like everyone to. I have figured out a possible parse for it, but I’ll keep it for my comments later.

Here’s a hint. Kirkham’s context and meaning is something like this:

To avoid the liar paradox (“This sentence is false” — if it’s true then it’s false) we need a theory of truth to solve this.

This theory will allow the liar paradox to have no truth value (neither true nor false, just meaningless — like “The present king of France is bald”: since there is no such present king, it’s arguably neither false nor true, just meaningless, as it wouldn’t do to say “The present king is NOT bald” either).

That theory will make sentences truth-valueless only if those sentences would be paradoxical if they had a truth value.

So, if some sentence would seem factually paradoxical (like the liar paradox), then this truth theory would somehow make just such sentences (like the liar paradox) truth-valueless.

Now try Kirkham.