Variation in the discourse of non-brain-damaged speakers on a clinical task

Elizabeth Armstrong

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: As variation in normal discourse is well acknowledged in the sociolinguistic literature (Labov, 1972), it is logical that it must be inherent in the discourse of heterogeneous clinical populations. Yet, variation is rarely discussed in the aphasiology discourse literature. This is despite the fact that speech pathologists are constantly required to make judgements about the normalcy or otherwise of the discourse of their clients on clinical tasks—a difficult endeavour given the paucity of data available on the range of discourse styles evidenced in the non-brain-damaged population on these same tasks. Aims: The study aims to examine linguistic differences observed in the performances of nonbrain-damaged speakers on a recount task in order to address the potential for variation in clinical populations when undertaking a similar task. Methods & Procedures: Twelve adult non-brain-damaged speakers were required to produce a recount of an illness they had experienced. Analysis of the texts was then undertaken using Halliday’s (1994) analysis of clause complexes, which examines logical relationships existing between clauses. Outcomes & Results: In the heterogeneous group studied, five different patterns of recounts were observed, each pattern having a different semantic impact on the text. Some texts focusedon the chronological ordering of events, whereas others focused more on detailed descriptions of participants and circumstances, causal factors involved, or a combination thereof. In addition, considerable variation in text length and clause complex length was observed. Conclusions: The study demonstrates the stylistic variation that can exist among speakers within a genre that is generally considered to be relatively homogeneous. Speakers may achieve the same text macrostructure and yet do this in different ways through different patterns of microstructure. Length of both the overall text and the clause complexes it contains may vary, as may the nature of the logical relations represented, all producing variations of thesame text type or genre. Such variation in non-brain-damaged speakers is important for clinicians to consider when making judgements of ‘‘normalcy’’ on the discourse of clinical populations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)647-658
    Number of pages12
    Issue number4-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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