Semin Speech Lang 2007; 28(2): 148-158
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-970572
Copyright © 2007 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Pragmatics in Discourse Performance: Insights from Aphasiology

Hanna K. Ulatowska1 , Gloria Streit Olness1 , 2
  • 1Callier Center for Communication Disorders, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
  • 2Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas
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10. April 2007 (online)


This article examines the preservation of pragmatic abilities of individuals with aphasia, as manifested in the discourse they produce. The construct of coherence is used as a framework for understanding this pragmatic preservation. Discourse coherence is largely derived from the structure, selection, and highlighting of information expressed in a discourse. Personal narratives, as one type of discourse, represent an extended turn-in-conversation on a topic of personal relevance to the speaker, common in everyday life. As such, they provide a valuable source of information about a speaker's pragmatic ability. Examples of personal narratives told by individuals with aphasia are used to illustrate and discuss the means by which discourse coherence is achieved. These include a tightly structured temporal-causal event line, development of theme, and evaluation of information. Possible approaches to clinical assessment are considered, including use of global rating systems.


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Example of Narrative Produced in a Group Setting

Middle-aged African-American male with a mild to moderate fluent aphasia:

I looked, I looked up, and I seen a woman layin' down. So, I, com ar-, come come around to see. And I see woman layin down on the… It was hot. I come around. This woman [laughter] she, she was layin, I mean she's laying on the street. Hot, about 7, ah, 80-something degrees. No clothes on. Just laying on the street. I come, come around, and ah I wa going to give, I was gonna give her some, something to put on. And then her gonna and uh and Gene uh, they give her, Gene uh he give her something. And then he go un the car, get in the car, in the truck, and drove off. [laughter] A hundred degrees out. That woman had not a stitch on. I say, “Boy that girl.” Yeah, I thought, I thought I was seein' things while I was driving. ‘Cause that, you know, you know you see them, I say no, I seen them, nana, I say, I say, “I didn't see what I seen.” I say, “I wanna turn around and see.” “Sure.” I turn around, and there's the mirror I seen I thought I seen. This woman was there naked, naked in the XXX. Boy, boy, boy. I mean it, I give her it, she she must have, I don't know, she didn't have nowhere to go. Something had to have gone with her. I mean, it it was hot, too. Not not, in in some, somebody's in a in a ard yard on the street, on the curb, just laying there.

Gloria Streit Olness

Speech and Hearing Sciences

P.O. Box 305010, Denton, TX 76203-5010

eMail: [email protected]