Characteristics of Thai agrammatic speech

Wilasinee Siriboonpipattana*, Lyndsey Nickels, Roelien Bastiaanse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Agrammatic speech is characterized by reduced speech rate, reduced utterance length and lack of grammatical complexity, with grammatical morphemes often omitted or substituted. At the word level, verbs have been argued to be particularly vulnerable: agrammatic speakers produce fewer verbs or use a less diverse range of verbs than unimpaired speakers and the use of finite verbs is compromised. However, this description is based on agrammatic narrative speech from languages that express Tense, Aspect and Agreement through verb inflection. To date, a few studies have described narrative speech in a language without verb inflection (e.g., Standard Indonesian). Thai is another language that does not use verb inflection but uses constructions with serial verbs. Another typical feature of Thai, which has not been investigated in agrammatic speakers, is the use of particles to express politeness, although agrammatic speakers of Standard Indonesian have an impaired use of (different) particles but produce the passive construction (which is a way to express politeness) to a normal extent. 

Aim: The current study aimed to characterize Thai agrammatic speech and to analyse the use of verbs and polite particles. 

Methods: Nine Thai agrammatic and nine non-brain-damaged (NBD) speakers participated in the study. Narrative speech was elicited in a semi-standardized interview and by picture description. First, the presence of general features of agrammatic speech were investigated in Thai: reduced speech rate and utterance length, and lack of grammatical complexity. This was followed by an in-depth analysis of verb and particle production. 

Results: As in other languages, Thai agrammatic speakers talked slowly and with short utterances. However, the use of embedded sentences was normal. They produced fewer verbs, more specifically, their production of the serial verb construction was seriously impaired. Remarkably, the use of polite particles was spared, in fact, the agrammatic speakers produced more of these particles than the NBD speakers, although this may have been influenced by the context. 

Conclusions: Thai agrammatic speech resembles that of other languages in terms of speech rate and utterance length. Interestingly, the specific features of Thai that were investigated, serial verbs and polite particles, both showed different patterns to normal, and merit further investigation in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-981
Number of pages20
Issue number8
Early online date16 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2022


  • agrammatism
  • spontaneous speech
  • Thai
  • serial verbs
  • particles


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