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On the coherence of information highlighted by narrators with aphasia

Olness, Gloria Streit and Englebretson, Elise F.
On the coherence of information highlighted by narrators with aphasia. Aphasiology, 25(6-7), 2011, pages 713-726.

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Background: A central purpose of narration is to convey one's point of view about a narrated event. One's expressed evaluation of a narrated event (modalising language) is often differentiated from one's expression of the time, place, person, and event proper (referential language). Use of narrative evaluative devices highlights information in narratives. Previous findings provide evidence that the frequency of use, co-occurrence and distribution of evaluative devices are similar for narratives of speakers with and without aphasia, suggesting a preservation of evaluative or modalising language in aphasia.

Aims: This study complements prior research on structural aspects of evaluative devices by examining the distribution and overall coherence of the content emphasised by evaluative devices in the personal narratives of speakers with aphasia, as compared to that of narratives produced by demographically similar speakers without aphasia.

Methods & Procedures: Participants were 33 demographically matched, English-speaking, middle-aged adults. Of these, 17 had aphasia, and 16 had no neurological disorder. Each group included similar proportions of three demographic subgroups: African-American males, African-American females, and Caucasian females. Each participant told a personal narrative of a frightening experience. Narrative evaluative content was analysed for its proportion of use on and off the main event line, and for its overall coherence.

Outcomes & Results: The distribution and coherence of highlighted/evaluated semantic content were similar for narratives of individuals with and without aphasia. Notably, some aphasic participants produced coherent evaluative/modalising content with incoherent referential content.

Conclusions: The relatively intact ability of individuals with aphasia to assign prominence to information in narratives sheds light on the neurological underpinnings of modalising language, and suggests possible skills associated with the ability of aphasic persons to “communicate better than they talk” (Holland, 1977). The clinical potential for assessment and treatment that incorporates narrative evaluative devices and modalising language needs to be further explored.

EPrint Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:Aphasia, Discourse, Narrative, Evaluative devices, Modalising, Semantics
ID Code:2230
Conference:Clinical Aphasiology Conference: Clinical Aphasiology Conference (2010 : 40th : Isle of Palms, SC : May 23-27, 2010)
Alternative Locations:
DOI or Unique Handle:10.1080/02687038.2010.537346
Additional Information:This article is based on a paper originally presented at the CAC2010 Conference. Permission to view the full-text article is subject to the publisher's access.

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