Grammar and Agrammatism in Greenlandic (GreenGram)

Agrammatism is a language-related symptom complex that is connected to certain types of brain damage. In a pilot study of agrammatism in Greenlandic speakers, we found almost none of the grammatical issues that gave agrammatism its name. In the GreenGram project, we attempt to find the reason for this.

Traditionally, studies of agrammatism focused on English and languages structurally similar to English. Recent research has broadened this perspective to other types of languages, but we are the first to investigate a so-called polysynthetic language – Greenlandic. Greenlandic is special because Greenlandic sentences are often composed of a single word which can contain an in theory unlimited number of parts. Our finding that Greenlandic appears somewhat immune to the usual grammatical issues following brain damage challenges foundational assumptions about what agrammatism is – and thereby what grammar is. The project is key to understanding the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying agrammatism and grammar, but just as importantly key to helping Greenlandic speakers with agrammatism.


The project has three main aims:
1) developing better diagnostic tools for Greenlandic speakers with agrammatism,
2) replicating the original pilot study,
3) further investigating Greenlandic grammar in both healthy speakers and people with agrammatism following brain damage.

We explore these aspects by collecting speech samples from, and testing different aspects of the language production of, both participants with agrammatism and matched control participants. For example, we record participants while they describe pictures and measure the way their eyes move when they read.



  • Development and validation of diagnostic tests (e.g., Token Test and picture naming).
  • Replication of the original pilot study based on semi-spontaneous speech samples.
  • Picture-elicitation resulting in production of specific sentences constructions.
  • Conduction of eye-tracking experiments testing how Greenlandic is read and under what conditions comprehension fails.



Nedergaard, J. S. K., Martínez-Ferreiro, S., Fortescue, M. D., & Boye, K. (2020). Non-fluent aphasia in a polysynthetic language: Five case studies. Aphasiology, 34(6), 675-694.

Boye, K., Bastiaanse, R., Harder, P. & Martínez-Ferreiro, S. (2023). Agrammatism in a usage-based theory of grammatical status: Impaired combinatorics, compensatory prioritization, or both? Journal of Neurolinguistics, 65, 101108.



We welcome students and others (e.g., speech therapists) who are interested in getting involved, whether it be for a bachelor thesis, master’s thesis, internship, or something else.




Name Title Image
Boye, Kasper Associate Professor - Promotion Programme Billede af Boye, Kasper
Nedergård, Johanne Sofie Krog Postdoc Billede af Nedergård, Johanne Sofie Krog
Nielsen, Mads PhD Fellow Billede af Nielsen, Mads
Trondhjem, Naja Blytmann Associate Professor Billede af Trondhjem, Naja Blytmann


Bastiaanse, Roelien University of Groningen, Netherlands
Christensen, Hanne K.  Bispebjerg Hospital, Denmark
Ditte Balle Ebbesen Queen Ingrid's Hospital, Greenland
Matthiesen, Tiit I.  Rigshospitalet, Denmark
Simonsen, Frederikke M.  New North Zealand Hospital, Denmark


Project period: January 2023 to June 2026
PI: Kasper Boye