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  • Richard J Binney
    Temple University, Philadelphia
  • Bonnie Zuckerman
    Temple University, Philadelphia
  • Jamie Reilly
    Temple University, Philadelphia

Natural languages are rife with words that describe feelings, introspective states, and social constructs (e.g., liberty, persuasion) that cannot be directly observed through the senses. Effective communication demands linguistic competence with such abstract words. In clinical neurological settings, abstract words are especially vulnerable to the effects of stroke and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. A parallel literature in cognitive neuroscience suggests that abstract and concrete words are at least partially neuroanatomically dissociable. Much remains to be learned about the nature of lexical-semantic deficits of abstract words and how best to promote their recovery. Here, we review contemporary theoretical approaches to abstract-concrete word representation with an aim toward contextualizing patient-based dissociations for abstract words. We then describe a burgeoning treatment approach for targeting abstract words and suggest a number of potential strategies for future interventions. We argue that a deeper understanding of is essential for informing language rehabilitation.


  • Abstract words, Aphasia, Concreteness effect, Imageability, Language therapy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79
JournalCurrent neurology and neuroscience reports
Issue number9
Early online date21 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes

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