Morphological-compound dysgraphia in an aphasic patient: "A wild write through the lexicon"

Tobias Bormann*, Cristina Romani, Andrew Olson, Claus-W. Wallesch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe the case of a dysgraphic aphasic individual-S.G.W.-who, in writing to dictation, produced high rates of formally related errors consisting of both lexical substitutions and what we call morphological-compound errors involving legal or illegal combinations of morphemes. These errors were produced in the context of a minimal number of semantic errors. We could exclude problems with phonological discrimination and phonological short-term memory. We also excluded rapid decay of lexical information and/or weak activation of word forms and letter representations since S.G.W.'s spelling showed no effect of delay and no consistent length effects, but, instead, paradoxical complexity effects with segmental, lexical, and morphological errors that were more complex than the target. The case of S.G.W. strongly resembles that of another dysgraphic individual reported in the literature-D.W.-suggesting that this pattern of errors can be replicated across patients. In particular, both patients show unusual errors resulting in the production of neologistic compounds (e.g., "bed button" in response to "bed"). These patterns can be explained if we accept two claims: (a) Brain damage can produce both a reduction and an increase in lexical activation; and (b) there are direct connections between phonological and orthographic lexical representations (a third spelling route). We suggest that both patients are suffering from a difficulty of lexical selection resulting from excessive activation of formally related lexical representations. This hypothesis is strongly supported by S.G.W.'s worse performance in spelling to dictation than in written naming, which shows that a phonological input, activating a cohort of formally related lexical representations, increases selection difficulties. © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-105
Number of pages31
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number1-2
Early online date11 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2014


  • acquired dysgraphia
  • compounds
  • deep dysgraphia
  • formal lexical errors
  • morphology
  • third route


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