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Proper names in Elsevier EL Semenza

Proper names in Elsevier EL Semenza
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  Provided for non-commercial research and educational use only.  Not for reproduction or distribution or commercial use This article was srcinally published in the  Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition , published by Elsevier, and the attached copy is provided by Elsevier for the author's benefit and for the benefit of the author's institution, for non-commercial research and educational use including without limitation use in instruction at your institution, sending it to specific colleagues who you know, and  providing a copy to your institution’s administrator. All other uses, reproduction and distribution, including without limitation commercial reprints, selling or licensing copies or access, or posting on open internet sites, your  personal or institution’s website or repository, are prohibited. For exceptions,  permission may be sought for such use through Elsevier's permissions site at: Semenza C (2006), Impairments of Proper and Common Names. In: Keith Brown, (Editor-in-Chief)  Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition , volume 5,  pp. 561-564. Oxford: Elsevier.  Impairments of Proper and Common Names C Semenza , University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy  2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. The distinction between common and proper namesis a fundamental one in lexical semantics. The twocategories, in fact, are distinguishable from one an-other since they have a different type of reference.This fact has been shown to impinge on the kind of processing each category undergoes. Neuropsycho-logical research in the past 20 years has indeeduncovered a series of phenomena that critically con-tribute to the understanding of how proper names areprocessed in the brain with respect to commonnames. These findings could be interpreted in lightof past and current philosophical and linguistic theo-riesonthenatureofproperandcommonnames,that,in turn, received empirical support. Thus, the role of a very important dimension, that of the amount of  ‘ sense ’ inFrege ’ s(1892)terms,washighlighted,anditbecame possible to distinguish semantics referring toindividuals from general semantics.Relevant philosophical and linguistic theories canbe summarized as follows. Proper names are thoughtto relate to their reference in a  ‘ token ’  (individual) asopposed to  ‘ type ’  (categorical) fashion, which is thecase for commonnouns.Inother words, while propernames refer to individual entities, common nounsrefertocategoriesofitems.Accordingtophilosopherslike Frege (1892) or, more recently, Kripke (1980),proper names are pure referring expressions, in thatthey carry little if any sense or connotation beyondthat of the reference. In other words, proper namesdo not entail any description of the entity they desig-nate.Changingbasicfeaturesandpropertiesovertimedoes not change the proper name of a given singleentity. Another way of expressing this fact is to tellthat proper names have an arbitrary relation withtheir reference. As Semenza  et al.  (1998) have ob-served, a name designating a category applies to a setof attributes that overlap or interact with each othervia high-probability connections. In the set of attri-butes labeled by a proper name, instead, attributescombine together incidentally, being related to eachother only by virtue of belonging to entities thatare unique. This distinction resembles closely thatuniversally made between semantic and episodicmemory mechanisms, but with an important differ-ence: the mechanisms in question are more peripheraland operate at the lexical level.In neuropsychology, cases were discovered where-by, as a result of a brain lesion, patients were affectedby selective anomia for proper names, with normalretrieval of common names. Cases of the reversepattern  –  proper name selective sparing  –  have alsobeen reported.Anomia for proper names, in general, affects re-trieval in all testing conditions and comes in differentvarieties, the most common (so-called  ‘ pure propername anomias ’ ) being those srcinating with a defi-cit at a postsemantic level (i.e., failure to accessthe name ’ s phonological form from an intact seman-tic system, e.g., Semenza and Zettin, 1988, 1989;Lucchelli and De Renzi, 1992; Hittmair-Delazer et al. , 1994). The phonological level itself seems tobe spared in these patients, since they maintain theabilitytoread aloudirregularlyspelledpropernames.This type of anomia comes in two different subtypes:one concerns all proper names, while the other islimited to people ’ s names only. It is still unclearwhether proper names other than people ’ s ones areeasier than the latter or rather have particular proper-ties that may help in circumventing the deficit. Mostof these patients seem little if not at all sensitiveto phonemic as well as semantic cueing, but a com-bination of both types of cue has been shown toyield some improvement. Cases, however, have beenreported of patients showing a significant im-provement when aided with a phonological cue (e.g.,Lucchelli and De Renzi, 1992; Otsuka  et al.,  2005).Other cases have been shown, instead, to derive froma problem within the semantic system (e.g., Miceli et al. , 2000), where information about individualpeople seems to be selectively lost with respect to in-formation about other entities, or from the isolationof information on individual entities from both thegeneral semantic system and the output lexicon (Vander Linden  et al.,  1995; Semenza  et al.,  1998). Thus,while some patients cannot retrieve the name buthave no problem showing they know everything elseabout the individual, other less frequently observedpatients seem to be selectively impaired in the seman-tic store containing all the information about that in-dividual, including the corresponding name. In ‘ isolation ’  cases the information was available butcould only be triggered by providing the propername itself. A last variety, only very recently de-scribed, is that of   ‘ prosopanomia ’  (Semenza  et al., 2003), a face-specific optic aphasia, where patientscannot retrieve the names of people by just lookingat their faces but they can do so on definition. Theyhave no trouble recognizing the face, but like opticaphasics, they seem instead unable to retrieve enoughsemantic information from the visual stimulus (inthis case, specifically, only from faces) to activatethe name. Impairments of Proper and Common Names  561 Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics  (2006), vol. 5, pp. 561–564  Anomias for proper names arising at the retrievallevel are also important for their concomitant symp-toms. While, at least in the purest cases, they seem tocome as the only reported symptom, careful neuro-psychological assessment systematically uncovers arevealingconstellationofassociateddeficits.Semenzaand Zettin (1989) first showed that their propername anomic could not retrieve a member of anarbitrarily related word pair given the other. Thesame patient and similar ones could not retrieve ‘ token ’  information arbitrarily connected with otherinformation, such as known phone numbers of people, titles of wordless pieces of music, dates of known events, etc. This finding provides support fortheories of proper names as pure referring expres-sions, whose link with the entity they represent isarbitrary, nondescriptive (i.e., unlike with commonnouns, not implying attributes), and thus devoidof sense.Casesofselectivesparingofpropernamesaremorecomplicated than proper name anomias and do notseem to tell astraightforward story.Twomain factorscontribute to this state of uncertainty and, conse-quently, to the difficulty in identifying the nature of the functional deficit. First, in general, sparing of proper names has been found in otherwise very se-verely affected patients. This fact has seriously ham-pered the possibility of testing the patients in thedesirable level of detail. Second, the conditions inwhich proper names are selectively spared appearsto differ widely from case to case; in fact, unlike incases of the most common (postsemantic) propername anomia, which all look rather similar, no singlereported case of proper name sparing closely resem-bles any of the others. For instance, the first suchcase ever observed (McKenna and Warrington,1978) concerned only the names of nations. In anoth-ercase, reportedbyCipolotti etal. (1993),the patientcould be tested only in writing, where he could re-trieve only names of countries and famous people. Inthe case reported by Semenza and Sgaramella (1993),the patient could not retrieve any name, and selectivepreservation of proper names emerged only in themiddle of a gibberish jargon, and, more clearly, afterphonemic cueing in picture naming. In contrast,Cipolotti ’ s(2000)patientshowedpropernamesuperi-ority just for countries and only in oral naming andreading aloud. In another case (Schmidt  et al. , 2004),preserved sparing was shown only in the written con-dition in a patient whose articulation was totallyimpaired. This patient showed semantic knowledgeabout items whose (common) name he could notretrieve and never committed paragraphias; thesefacts led the authors to suggest that the functionaldeficit could be located in accessing, from an intactsemantic level, an intact orthographic lexicon. Unfor-tunately, the patient ’ s extremely severe articulationproblems prevented assessing the status of his phono-logical lexicon. In the case described by Lyons  et al  .(2002), the patients not only missed common nounsbut also the correspondent semantic information:in contrast, the patient showed a normal abilityto retrieve people ’ s names and the correspondingbiographical information.With one exception, none of the patients withproper name sparing described in the literature trulymirrors reported cases of anomia for proper names.Because of the severity of the cases, only limitedtesting results are available for any one patient, soit has been very difficult to locate the deficit at aparticular processing stage.This review thus shows that a convincing doubledissociation in the processing of proper and commonnames, the clearest evidence for separate systems, hasnot been described at all processing stages. The onlyexception is indeed constituted by two cases, theproper name anomia studied by Miceli  et al  . (2000)and the proper name selective sparing reported byLyons  et al.  (2002). These cases really mirror eachother, insofar the former, as reported above, missedthe knowledge of the semantics of individual entitieswhile preserving knowledge of categorical entities,while the latter, instead, showed exactly the reversepattern.Strangely, the most frequent pattern of propername anomia (i.e., where the defect has been locatedat the postsemantic lexical activation level) is notclearly mirrored by any case of proper name sparing.BeforeMiceli etal. (2000)andLyons etal. (2002)haddescribed their patients, the lack of a double dissocia-tion could be taken as meaning that the processing of the two categories follows the same path. Semenza(1997), however, warned against this last interpreta-tion by pointing out that the patients reported inSemenza and Zettin (1988, 1989) could retrieve vir-tually all items in their presumed premorbid vocabu-lary, and were well within, if not superior to, normallevel in the retrieval of common names. They couldindeed retrieve very difficult abstract names and cor-rectly name in a minute a high number of items fromodd common name categories. In contrast, they wereprofoundly impaired with proper names to the pointthat they could retrieve only their own name and thatof a few family members. The fact that they wereunable to retrieve the names of people they hadknown all their lives and met almost every day indi-cates that this dissociation cannot be determined bylow frequency or familiarity of such items; rather, it 562  Impairments of Proper and Common Names Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics  (2006), vol. 5, pp. 561–564  suggeststhatpropernameshaveaseparateprocessingpathway.The problem remains of why, with about twodozen cases of anomia for proper names describedin literature, their selective sparing is still so hard tofind. One possible explanation is that the retrieval of propernamesissimplymoredifficultthantheretriev-al of common nouns. This position is widely held andanecdotally supported, but experimental confirma-tion has been difficult to obtain (Cohen and Burke,1993). In fact, the main methods used in the past todemonstrate proper names ’  relative difficulty withrespect to common names proved to be largely inade-quate. It is indeed very hard if not impossible tomatch for perceptual difficulty visual stimuli consist-ing of pictures of faces (for proper names) and pic-tures of objects (for common names). Diary studies,instead, collecting participants ’  naming failures in agiven period of time, were hampered by the obviousfact that one often hardly notices missing a commonname, whilemissingaproper namemaycause seriousembarrassment.Thus, the best available evidence for proper namesbeing indeed more difficult to process rests mainly ontwo types of relatively recent observations. One con-cerns the so called  ‘ baker – Baker ’  paradox: it is easierto learn that a face belongs to a baker than it is tolearn that the same face belongs to a Mr Baker(McWeeny  et al.,  1987; Cohen, 1990). This effectcannotbeattributedtodifferencesinthephonologicalform or frequency of occurrence of occupations ver-sus proper names. Another methodology  –  repetitionof supraspan lists of words  –  shows a significantlyweaker priority effect when the list is composed of proper names than when it is composed of commonnouns matched to proper names for frequency, lengthandphonologicalcomplexity(Hittmair-Delazer etal., 1994; Semenza  et al. , 1996; Pelamatti  et al. , 2003).This effect widens with age and exposure to highaltitude and comes to an extreme with Alzheimer ’ sdisease.Proper name recognition has also been studied inneuropsychology. A selective deficit in proper namerecognition  vis-a`-vis  sparing of the comprehension of common names was first reported by Verstichel  et al. (1996)in a patient who showed the same dissociationin output. Sparing in recognition of proper namesrelative to common ones has also been reported(Saffran  et al.,  1980; Van Lanker and Klein, 1990),generally after major damage to the left hemisphere.Once established that proper and common namesfollow different functional pathways, an importantand debated issue concerns localization of propername processing in the brain. Reported investigationsso far employed lateralization techniques, ERPs(Evoked Response Potentials), neuroimaging, andclassic clinical – anatomical correlation.Ohnesorge and Van Lanker (2001), reviewing find-ings via lateralization techniques on proper namerecognition,cametothefollowingconclusions:great-er accuracy is found in the right visual field for bothcommon proper names; famous proper names areoverall more accurately recognized; no field differ-enceexistsforfamousproper namesincategorizationtasks and for more familiar items. The authors sug-gested that both hemispheres can process famousproper names and that the right hemisphere contri-butes to personal name recognition because it may bespecialized for items of   ‘ personal relevance. ’ AnERPstudycarriedoutbyProverbio etal. (2001)revealed that tacit retrieval of a proper name phono-logical form is reflected in a strong activation of left anterior temporal and left centrofrontal areas,while the same task shows greater involvement of occipitotemporal areas with common names.Neuroimaging studies (Damasio  et al.,  1996;Gorno Tempini  et al.,  1998; Rotschtein  et al.,  2005)seem to indicate a critical role of the left temporalpole in naming of faces and that proper name catego-rization depends on the left – anterior middle – tempo-ral region.Finally, the anatomoclinical correlation method(Semenza  et al.,  1995; Yasuda  et al.,  2000) allowedresearchers to reach the following conclusions: a) inproper name anomias, the left temporal lobe is oftendamaged;b)severalcasesaredeterminedbyleft-sidedlesions clearly outside the temporal lobe, includingthe basal ganglia, the thalamus, and the occipitallobe; c) the left temporal lobe is most often damagedalso in selective sparing of proper names; and d) atleast one case of selective sparing of proper namesfollowed a lesion in the left temporal pole. The mostrecent review (Yasuda  et al.,  2000) thus concludedthat various aspects of proper name retrieval may besustained by different structures differently partici-pating in a complex network: existing speculationsabout the specific role of each of these structuresremains at present unwarranted.In summary, localization studies lead to the sugges-tion that a dedicated module dealing with propername retrieval probably exists, but it is either subjectto great interindividual variation or it is distributedthroughout a large portion of the left hemisphere. See also:   Aphasia Syndromes; Lexicon, Generative; Prop-er Names: Semantic Aspects; Reference: Psycholinguis-tic Approach; Semantics of Spatial Expressions. 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