Measuring discourse coherence in anomic aphasia using Rhetorical Structure Theory

Anthony Pak Hin Kong*, Anastasia Linnik, Sam Po Law, Waisa Wai Man Shum

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: The existing body of work regarding discourse coherence in aphasia has provided mixed results, leaving the question of coherence being impaired or intact as a result of brain injury unanswered. In this study, discourse coherence in non-brain-damaged (NBD) speakers and speakers with anomic aphasia was investigated quantitatively and qualitatively. Method: Fifteen native speakers of Cantonese with anomic aphasia and 15 NBD participants produced 60 language samples. Elicitation tasks included story-telling induced by a picture series and a procedural description. The samples were annotated for discourse structure in the framework of Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) in order to analyse a number of structural parameters. After that 20 naïve listeners rated coherence of each sample. Result: Disordered discourse was rated as significantly less coherent. The NBD group demonstrated a higher production fluency than the participants with aphasia and used a richer set of semantic relations to create discourse, particularly in the description of settings, expression of causality, and extent of elaboration. People with aphasia also tended to omit essential information content. Conclusion: Reduced essential information content, lower degree of elaboration, and a larger amount of structural disruptions may have contributed to the reduced overall discourse coherence in speakers with anomic aphasia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)406-421
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
    Issue number4
    Early online date17 Mar 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2018


    • discourse analysis
    • aphasia
    • speech-language pathology

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