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Communication and Medicine

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Adapting to conversation as a language-impaired speaker: Changes in aphasic turn construction over time

Ray Wilkinson / Morwenna Gower / Suzanne Beeke / Jane Maxim
Published Online: 2007-08-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/CAM.2007.009


Using the methodology and findings of conversation analysis, we analyze changes in the talk of a man with aphasia (a language disorder acquired following brain damage) at two points in his spontaneous recovery period in the first months post-stroke. We note that in the earlier conversation (15 weeks post-stroke) two of the turn constructional methods he particularly makes use of are replacement (a form of repair) and extension. By the time of the latter conversation (30 weeks poststroke) these methods are less prevalent, while another repair operation, insertion, is now used in a particular way not seen in the earlier conversation. We suggest that these methods are means by which the aphasic speaker adapts his limited linguistic resources to the demands of constructing a turn-at-talk in conversation in order to lessen the extent of repair and delay with the turn and thus lessen the exposure of his linguistic noncompetence and his identity as ‘different’, ‘disabled’, or ‘language impaired’. These turn constructional methods are dynamic and change as the speaker recovers. We suggest that communication disorders such as aphasia can be problematic not only because of difficulties they can cause in conveying information or producing other social actions, but also because they can create difficulties in the presentation of self in everyday life.

Keywords: aphasia; identity; conversation; turn; recovery; adaptation

About the article

Ray Wilkinson

Ray Wilkinson is a speech and language therapist and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human Communication Science, University College London. His main research interest is in the area of conversation analysis and communication disorders, particularly aphasia. Recent publications include articles in Augmentative and Alternative Communication, International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, Revue Française de Linguistique Appliquée, and Journal of Pragmatics.

Morwenna Gower

Morwenna Gower is a speech and language therapist who works for Southampton City Primary Care Trust. Her current clinical post includes both in-patient care in an acute hospital setting and working in the wider community as part of a community neurological rehabilitation team.

Suzanne Beeke

Suzanne Beeke is a speech and language therapist, Lecturer, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Human Communication Science, University College London. Her research applies conversation analysis to communication disorder, particularly aphasia, and explores the characteristics of task-based and conversational grammar in agrammatic aphasia. Recent publications include articles in Aphasiology and Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics.

Jane Maxim

Jane Maxim is a speech and language therapist and Professor of Language Pathology in the Department of Human Communication Science, University College London. Her research is on the relationship between language in conversation and in testing, the evaluation of training programs for healthcare staff working with older people, and employment issues after stroke. Recent publications include an edited book on Communication Disability and the Dementias (with Karen Bryan) and papers in Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics and Disability and Society.

*Address for correspondence: Department of Human Communication Science, University College London, Chandler House, 2 Wakefield Street, London WC1N 1PF, UK.

Published Online: 2007-08-22

Published in Print: 2007-05-29

Citation Information: Communication, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 79–97, ISSN (Online) 1613-4087, ISSN (Print) 0341-2059, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/CAM.2007.009.

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