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Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Bergs, Alexander / Cohn, Abigail C. / Good, Jeff

CiteScore 2018: 0.95

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.381
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Accounting for forgetfulness in dementia interaction

Jan Svennevig
  • Corresponding author
  • MultiLing – Center for MultiLingualism in Society across the Lifespan, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
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  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Anne Marie Dalby Landmark
  • MultiLing – Center for MultiLingualism in Society across the Lifespan, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2019-06-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0021


The article identifies and describes conversational practices used by persons with dementia and their interlocutors to account for the former’s lack of knowledge in cases where information about their personal experiences is made relevant and expectable at a specific point in a conversation. First, they may seek to normalize the lack of knowledge by claiming that it would be difficult for anyone to know or remember the information in question. Second, they may exceptionalize it by claiming that their cognitive or communicative impairment incidentally and temporarily disables them from accessing the information. Finally, they may justify their failure to provide information by claiming that it is not important, relevant or expectable that they should know. Such accounts dissociate the social character from the forgetfulness and thus constitute an attempt to avoid the loss of face associated with not remembering personal experiences. By specifying these conversational accounting practices, the study thus adds to existing knowledge on how participants handle the social sensitivity of typical dementia symptoms.

Keywords: dementia; Conversation Analysis; accounts; forgetfulness; negative epistemics


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About the article

Received: 2018-05-07

Accepted: 2018-12-13

Published Online: 2019-06-22

Funding Source: Norges Forskningsråd

Award identifier / Grant number: 223265

The authors are grateful to Maria Vonen for help with transcription and collection building. We have also profited from comments on the paper from Marianne Lind, Elin Nilsson, Heidi Hamilton and other members of the Dementia, Language, Interaction, and Cognition Network. This work was partly supported by the Research Council of Norway through its Centers of Excellence funding scheme, Norges Forskningsråd, Funder Id: 10.13039/501100005416, project number 223265.

Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, Volume 5, Issue s2, 20180021, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0021.

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