Previous research has established that patients with right hemisphere damage (RHD) are impaired in the comprehension of emotional prosody and facial expression. There are several explanations for this impairment. It may reflect defective acoustic and visuospatial analysis, disruption of nonverbal communicative representations, or a disturbance in the comprehension of emotional meaning. In order to examine these hypotheses, we asked RHD patients, left hemisphere damaged patients (LHD) and normal controls (NC) to judge the emotional content of sentences describing nonverbal expressions, and sentences describing emotional situations. We found that RHD subjects performed normally in their ability to infer the emotion conveyed by sentences describing situations. However, RHD patients were impaired in relation to both LHD and NC in the capacity to judge the emotional content of sentences depicting facial, prosodic, and gestural expressions, suggesting a disruption of nonverbal communicative representations. © 1991 Oxford University Press.