Skip to Content

What does Broca’s aphasia look like?

Broca’s aphasia, also known as non-fluent aphasia, is a language disorder that affects a person’s ability to speak and construct grammatically correct sentences. Named after French physician Paul Broca, who first discovered the condition in the 19th century, it is characterized by a marked reduction in spontaneous speech output and impaired grammatical structure. Individuals with Broca’s aphasia struggle to find and produce words, resulting in a non-fluent and labored speech. In this blog post, we will delve into the characteristics, speech production, comprehension abilities, associated symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, prognosis, and recovery of Broca’s aphasia.

Characteristics of Broca’s aphasia

Broca’s aphasia is characterized by two main features: loss of fluent speech and impaired grammatical structure. These characteristics make it difficult for individuals to convey their thoughts and ideas effectively.

Loss of fluent speech

One of the primary features of Broca’s aphasia is a significant reduction in the output of spontaneous speech. The speech production is slow, halting, and effortful, often with long pauses between words or phrases. This non-fluent speech is in stark contrast to the person’s pre-existing ability to speak fluently. The individual may experience frustration and become aware of the difficulty they face in expressing themselves.

Impaired grammatical structure

In addition to the loss of fluent speech, individuals with Broca’s aphasia exhibit impaired grammatical structure. They struggle with constructing sentences using the appropriate grammatical rules and syntax. This is known as agrammatic speech. Typical characteristics of agrammatic speech include the omission of function words, such as articles (a, an, the), pronouns (he, she, it), and auxiliary verbs (is, am, are). Conjunctions like “and,” “or,” and “but” may also be missing in the speech of someone with Broca’s aphasia. Furthermore, the use of prepositions is often limited or absent in their sentences.

Speech production in Broca’s aphasia

The speech production abilities of individuals with Broca’s aphasia are significantly affected by the condition. They encounter difficulties not only in expressing themselves but also in articulating words accurately.

Output of spontaneous speech

The output of spontaneous speech in individuals with Broca’s aphasia is markedly diminished. This can result in speaking in short, fragmented phrases or sentences. They may struggle to find the right words, leading to significant pauses and hesitation during conversations. Additionally, the person may experience frustration as they are unable to articulate their thoughts effectively.

Telegraphic speech

A hallmark feature of Broca’s aphasia is telegraphic speech. This refers to the use of content words only, while function words are omitted. Content words include nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, which carry the main semantic meaning. Function words, on the other hand, include articles, pronouns, conjunctions, and prepositions, which serve grammatical purposes in a sentence. The omission of function words in telegraphic speech results in a disjointed and simplified language.

Comprehension abilities in Broca’s aphasia

While individuals with Broca’s aphasia struggle with their expressive language skills, their comprehension abilities may not be as severely affected.

Relatively preserved comprehension of simple sentences

Despite the difficulties they face in producing grammatically correct sentences, individuals with Broca’s aphasia can often comprehend simple sentences. They can understand the main idea and extract meaning from straightforward and concise statements.

Difficulty with complex grammar structures

Where individuals with Broca’s aphasia struggle is with the comprehension of complex grammar structures. Sentences that involve multiple subordinate clauses or passive constructions can pose a challenge for them. The processing of intricate grammatical rules becomes more difficult, leading to reduced comprehension in these areas.

Associated symptoms and deficits

In addition to language difficulties, individuals with Broca’s aphasia may experience other associated symptoms and deficits.

Hemiparesis or hemiplegia on the right side of the body

Broca’s aphasia is often accompanied by weakness or paralysis on the right side of the body, known as hemiparesis or hemiplegia. This motor impairment is a result of damage to the left hemisphere of the brain, which controls the motor functions of the right side of the body.

Apraxia of speech

Apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder that commonly co-occurs with Broca’s aphasia. It involves the disruption of the ability to plan and execute voluntary movements required for speech production. Individuals with apraxia of speech may struggle with coordinating the movements of their lips, tongue, and jaw to produce sounds accurately.

Difficulty with writing and expressing thoughts on paper

Individuals with Broca’s aphasia often find it challenging to write and express their thoughts on paper. They may struggle with spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. The difficulty in translating their thoughts into written form can be frustrating and impact their ability to communicate effectively through written language.

Preservation of reading skills

Despite the difficulties in expressive language, individuals with Broca’s aphasia tend to preserve their reading skills. They can comprehend written text to a greater extent than their ability to produce spoken language.

Diagnosis and assessment of Broca’s aphasia

The diagnosis of Broca’s aphasia involves a comprehensive assessment of language abilities, neurological examination, and the use of neuroimaging techniques.

Language assessment tools

Speech-language pathologists use various language assessment tools and tests to evaluate the individual’s language skills. These assessments measure different aspects, such as auditory comprehension, verbal expression, reading, and writing abilities, and help identify the characteristics of Broca’s aphasia.

Neuroimaging techniques

Neuroimaging techniques, such as MRI and CT scans, are used to identify the location and extent of brain damage. These imaging studies help confirm the diagnosis of Broca’s aphasia and ensure that other possible causes of language difficulties are ruled out.

Differential diagnosis from other types of aphasia

Differentiating Broca’s aphasia from other types of aphasia is crucial for treatment planning and management. The characteristics of Broca’s aphasia, such as non-fluent speech, impaired grammatical structure, and preserved comprehension of simple sentences, aid in distinguishing it from other aphasic conditions.

Treatment options for Broca’s aphasia

While there is no specific cure for Broca’s aphasia, various treatment options can help individuals improve their language skills and enhance communication abilities.

Speech therapy and language rehabilitation

Speech therapy is the primary treatment approach for individuals with Broca’s aphasia. It involves structured therapy sessions conducted by speech-language pathologists who specialize in aphasia management. These sessions focus on improving speech production, comprehension, word retrieval, and grammatical structure.

Techniques for improving speech production

Speech therapy techniques, such as melodic intonation therapy and constrained-induced aphasia therapy, can help improve speech production in individuals with Broca’s aphasia. These techniques utilize music and intense language practice to facilitate the retrieval and production of words.

Strategies for enhancing communication comprehension

Speech-language pathologists also work on strategies to enhance communication comprehension. This may involve teaching the individual to use visual aids, gestures, and context clues to aid in understanding spoken language.

Alternative and augmentative communication methods

For individuals with severe Broca’s aphasia who struggle with verbal communication, alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) methods can be beneficial. AAC systems, such as communication boards, electronic devices, and speech-generating devices, enable individuals to express themselves using non-verbal modalities.

Prognosis and recovery in Broca’s aphasia

The prognosis and recovery of individuals with Broca’s aphasia vary depending on several factors, including the extent and location of brain damage, the individual’s overall health, and their access to appropriate therapy.

Early spontaneous recovery

Many individuals with Broca’s aphasia experience spontaneous recovery in the early stages after the onset of the condition. This recovery is attributed to the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself to some extent.

Long-term outcomes

Long-term outcomes can vary significantly among individuals with Broca’s aphasia. Some individuals may make significant progress in their language skills, while others may experience more limited improvements. The extent of recovery often depends on factors such as age, overall health, therapy compliance, and the presence of other underlying medical conditions.

Importance of individual factors and therapy compliance

Individual factors play a crucial role in the prognosis and recovery of individuals with Broca’s aphasia. Factors such as motivation, cognitive abilities, and emotional well-being can influence the effectiveness of therapy and the individual’s overall progress.


Broca’s aphasia, also known as non-fluent aphasia, is a language disorder characterized by diminished spontaneous speech output and impaired grammatical structure. Individuals with Broca’s aphasia struggle to find and produce words and have difficulty constructing grammatically correct sentences. The condition affects speech production, comprehension abilities, and can be accompanied by associated symptoms such as hemiparesis, apraxia of speech, and writing difficulties. Diagnosis involves language assessments and neuroimaging techniques to confirm the presence and extent of brain damage. Treatment options include speech therapy, techniques for improving speech production and comprehension, and alternative communication methods. Prognosis and recovery can vary, with early spontaneous recovery being common and long-term outcomes influenced by individual factors and therapy compliance. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for optimal recovery and improving communication abilities in individuals with Broca’s aphasia.


  1. Broca Aphasia – StatPearls
  2. Broca’s (Expressive) Aphasia
  3. What is Broca’s Aphasia? Non-fluent …
  4. Broca’s Aphasia: Symptoms, Treatments, Types, and Outlook
  5. Broca’s aphasia: Symptoms, causes, and treatment