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Discourse facilitation of language production by a nonfluent aphasic adult Wirth, Dian Carrol


This study investigated the language production of a single nonfluent aphasic individual as it varied across a number of discourse tasks. The tasks were hypothesized to affect the performance of the aphasic individual differentially because they varied in terms of number of extralinguistic variables, although the support factors do not necessarily contribute equivalent amounts of support. The extralinguistic variables included: schematic structure, temporal structure, visual support, retelling opportunity, familiar context and graphic representation of the semantic relations that form the basis of a discourse. The tasks also varied in terms of discourse type: fairytale, procedural discourse, memorable experience, sequence picture, expository discourse and complex picture description. A theory of sentence production (Garrett, 1980,1982,1984) provided a framework for identification of a number of dependent variables that were representative of the subject's level of language impairment at the functional and positional levels of Garrett's theory. Results indicated that discourse type was a factor in the subject's differential performance, measured in terms of length of discourse (words per discourse and utterances per discourse), length of utterance, the proportion of complete sentences (in relation to total utterances), and production of verbs in relation to the production of nouns. The number of extralinguistic variables was a factor in the subject's differential performance, measured in terms of the total number of words produced per minute per discourse and complete sentences as a proportion of total utterances. Also, the subject produced a greater proportion of complete sentences and a greater proportion of sentences having three arguments in a task represented in a format that emphasized the semantic relations of a discourse than in a task that did not, when all other variables were held constant. The subject produced longer discourses (measured in total number of words), a larger number of verb tokens, and a greater proportion of complete sentences in tasks having schematic structure than in tasks that did not, when all other variables were held constant. The results suggest that certain discourse tasks facilitate certain aspects of language production better than others. Knowledge of which discourse tasks are more facilitative is important for the assessment, and potentially, the treatment of aphasia.

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