Proposing a clinical quantification framework of macro-linguistic structures in aphasic narratives

Frontiers in Psychology 5 (2014)
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Background Analysis of aphasic narratives can be a challenge for clinicians. Previous studies have mainly employed measures that categorized speech samples at the word level. They included quantification of the use and misuse of different word classes, presence and absence of narrative contents and errors, paraphasias, and perseverations, as well as morphological structures and errors within a narrative. In other words, a great amount of research has been conducted in the aphasiology literature focusing on micro-linguistic structures of oral narratives. Aspects of macro- linguistic structures, such as the analysis of content information by a speaker, consistency of using cohesive devices to present information within a narrative, and order of presenting information necessary to form a coherent discourse, have not been extensively investigated. The current investigation proposes a clinical analytic system to target three aspects of macro-linguistic structures in narratives among speakers with aphasia. Specifically, (1) the presence of search events (i.e., the mentioning of key events that allow the listener to understand; Capilouto, Wright, &Wagovich, 2006) within a narrative, (2) the sequence of the mentioned events, and (3) the informativeness (i.e., the fulfillment of lexical items that allow the user to understand what the event is detailing) of the event contents, were focused in the proposed framework. Method Ten controls transcripts from were selected from the AphasiaBank (MacWhinney, Fromm, Forbes, & Holland, 2011). Three narrative tasks, including sequential picture description of ‘Refused Umbrella’, procedural narrative of making a ‘Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich’, and telling of ‘Cinderella’ story, were used to establish normative data for the basis of analysis. Specifically, the Search Events (e) and Informative Words (i) used by at least 70% of the speakers were listed for each genre. The sequential order of mentioning the Search Events, i.e., common order of events in 90% of the speakers, ( was determined. Twelve speakers with aphasia (nine fluent and three non-fluent) were recruited and administered the Western Aphasia Battery and Object and Action Naming Battery. Their performance in the above three discourse tasks were orthographically transcribed and analyzed using the following measures:, e.matched with norm, e.missed, e.irrlevant, e.extra,, i.pb&j, i.umbr, i.cind, and Three samples were randomly chosen to be re-analyzed for inter- and intra-rater reliability. Results Results of an independent t-test suggested significant differences between the fluent and non-fluent subjects in sequential order of Search Events for all genres ( and, suggesting sensitivity of this framework to differentiate between the two fluency groups. Results of Pearson product-moment correlations revealed significant relation between Informative Words and WAB spontaneous speech scores, AQ, as well as OAB scores, for both aphasic groups. The mean value of coefficients for intra-rater reliability (0.992), with significant correlations on e.match, e.miss, and e.extra, was higher than that of inter-rater reliability (0.897). Discussion Based on our preliminary results, this objective framework allowed clinical evaluation of impairment in macro-linguistic structures present in aphasic discourse. Further extension should involve more subjects encompassing a wider range of severity with different types of aphasia.

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