Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 17: 121–135, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Reading and writing skills in multilingual/multiliterate aphasics:
Two case studies
, SAPNA BHAT
Department of Speech Pathology, All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore, India;
Department of Psychology, University of Mysore, Mysore, India
Abstract. Reading and writing deﬁcits in two multilingual speakers of Kannada, Hindi and
English are described. Disorders of the two patients (Mr G and Ms S) had different etiologies.
Mr G had severe alexia with agraphia in English as well as in Kannada and Hindi. Ms S
exhibited dissociation across the languages, showing symptoms of surface dyslexia in English
and mild dyslexia in Kannada. Both patients were tested on the Western Aphasia Battery
and on tests developed by Coltheart. Their test performance is described and discussed in the
context of orthographic differences between English and various Indian languages.
Key words: Case study, Cross-linguistic, Dyslexia, Indian writing system, Semi-syllabic
Aphasia in bi/multilinguals has been studied for a long time. Most research
on bilingual aphasia has concentrated on speech and comprehension (e.g.,
Munoz, Marquardt & Copeland, 1998; Paradis, Goldblum & Abidi 1982;
Perecman, 1984). However, bilingual aphasics typically also show some
impairment in reading and writing in addition to speaking and compre-
hending, usually in both languages.
Reading and writing skills in bilingual aphasics may clarify our under-
standing of the organization and processing of multiple languages and scripts
in the brain. Halpern (1941) reported a patient in whom reading and writing
were selectively recovered, which suggests that languages based on oral and
written codes may be more resilient to aphasic disruption than languages
relying only upon oral codes. More recently, Agliotti, Beltramello, Girardi
and Fabbro (1996) described a similar pattern of recovery in a bilingual
subcortical aphasic. This patient presented a paradoxical recovery of the
second language (which had both oral and written modes) relative to the ﬁrst
language, which was known only orally.
Different types of reading deﬁcits have been proposed in monoliterate
patients. Two different types of alexia – deep and surface – are usually
observed, along with corresponding differences in paralexia – semantic