Semin Speech Lang 2008; 29(1): 005-017
DOI: 10.1055/s-2008-1061621
© Thieme Medical Publishers

Semantic Memory and Language Processing: A Primer

Sharon M. Antonucci1 , Jamie Reilly2
  • 1Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, New York University, New York, New York
  • 2Departments of Communicative Disorders and Neurology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; Brain Rehabilitation Research Center, Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Gainesville, Florida
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
28 April 2008 (online)


Semantic memory refers to our long-term knowledge of word and object meaning. There is increasing evidence that rather than being a passive warehouse of knowledge, semantic memory is a dynamic system whose effectiveness relies on the coordination of multiple components distributed across a large network of cortical regions. Damage to one or more of these components produces distinct profiles of impairment in aphasia and dementia. Furthermore, such differences are associated with different responses to behavioral treatment. That is, effective treatment for semantically based language disorders in aphasia may have very limited success in dementia. We argue that treatment specificity demands a comprehensive understanding of the structure of semantic memory and the nature of its compromise. Here, we review several neuroanatomically informed theories of semantic organization with respect to the effects of semantic impairment on language processing in aphasia and neurodegenerative disease.


Sharon M Antonucci, Ph.D. 

Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, New York University

665 Broadway, 9th floor, New York, NY 10012

Email: [email protected]