Focal brain lesions are assumed to produce language deficits by two basic mechanisms: local cortical dysfunction at the lesion site, and remote cortical dysfunction due to disruption of the transfer and integration of information between connected brain regions. However, functional imaging studies investigating language outcome after aphasic stroke have tended to focus only on the role of local cortical function. In this positron emission tomography functional imaging study, we explored relationships between language comprehension performance after aphasic stroke and the functional connectivity of a key speech-processing region in left anterolateral superior temporal cortex. We compared the organization of left anterolateral superior temporal cortex functional connections during narrative speech comprehension in normal subjects with left anterolateral superior temporal cortex connectivity in a group of chronic aphasic stroke patients. We then evaluated the language deficits associated with altered left anterolateral superior temporal cortex connectivity in aphasic stroke. During normal narrative speech comprehension, left anterolateral superior temporal cortex displayed positive functional connections with left anterior basal temporal cortex, left inferior frontal gyrus and homotopic cortex in right anterolateral superior temporal cortex. As a group, aphasic patients demonstrated a selective disruption of the normal functional connection between left and right anterolateral superior temporal cortices. We observed that deficits in auditory single word and sentence comprehension correlated both with the degree of disruption of left-right anterolateral superior temporal cortical connectivity and with local activation in the anterolateral superior temporal cortex. Subgroup analysis revealed that aphasic patients with preserved positive intertemporal connectivity displayed better receptive language function; these patients also showed greater than normal left inferior frontal gyrus activity, suggesting a possible 'top-down' compensatory mechanism. These results demonstrate that functional connectivity between anterolateral superior temporal cortex and right anterior superior temporal cortex is a marker of receptive language outcome after aphasic stroke, and illustrate that language system organization after focal brain lesions may be marked by complex signatures of altered local and pathway-level function.