Why is measuring communication difficult? A critical review of current speech pathology concepts and measures

Scott Barnes*, Steven Bloch

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Human society is organised through communicative interactions between co-present people. Speech pathology (SP) assessment and intervention strategies aim to access these sites of communication in order to facilitate participation in life situations for people with communication disorders. Surprisingly, however, there is no explicit theory of communication underpinning SP practice and research. As a result, the conceptual and practical basis for rigorous, empirical measurement of communication remains limited, which is a significant challenge for professional practice and research. This critical review discusses the prevailing ways that co-present communication has been conceptualised and measured in SP. In particular, we examine how models of health have informed current ideas and measurement practices. We argue that although patently valuable for SP, they are largely incommensurate with the realities of co-present communication. Drawing on current empirical research in Sociology and Linguistics, we specify the properties of real-time co-present communication and discuss their relationship to current SP concepts and measurement practices. We conclude by suggesting directions for conceptual development and empirical research that will draw SP assessment and intervention strategies closer to real-time co-present communication.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)219-236
    Number of pages18
    JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
    Issue number3
    Early online date23 Jul 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2019


    • communication
    • speech pathology
    • enchrony


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