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A comparison of Written and Spoken Narratives in Aphasia.

Conference paper
Authors Ingrid Behrns
Åsa Wengelin
Malin Broberg
Lena Hartelius
Published in the 12th International Conference of the EARLI Special Interest Group on Writing, 8th to 10th of September 2010, Heidelberg, Germany
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Swedish
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation
Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords aphasia, narratives, written language, spoken language
Subject categories Logopedics and phoniatrics, Linguistics


Background: Early research in aphasiology seemed to view writing as written speech, implying that the symptoms would be the same in written and spoken output. However, different patterns for how difficulties are manifested in written versus spoken language have since been observed. The impressions from untrained readers add an important perspective to clinicians in how patients are able to participate in everyday life outside the clinical setting. Aim: The aim of the present study was to explore how a personal narrative told by a group of persons with aphasia differed between written and spoken language, and to compare this with findings from narratives told by participants in a reference group. Method: Eight participants with aphasia and ten participants with no neurological disorder were asked to take part in the project. The participants produced a free narration entitled ‘I have never been so afraid’, first in a written version and then also in a spoken version. The stories were analysed through holistic assessments made by 60 participants without earlier experience of aphasia and through measurement of lexical and syntactic variables. Results: The untrained readers and listeners rated the stories told by the referencegroup higher than the stories told by the participants with aphasia. The written stories made by the persons with aphasia were however rated as easier to understand, more interesting and more coherent than their spoken versions. Regression analysis revealed that the length of the stories (number of words) and word-level errors were to some extent predicting factors of the ratings, but interestingly enough not necessarily in the sense that longer and more correctly spelled stories were always rated higher. Discussion: The results showed that the impression of a written text is probably due to a very complicated network of variables. For persons suffering from aphasia it is important that they are offered language rehabilitation that includes written language. However, results also indicates that the goals for writing training have to be set individually and that more factors except spelling has to be considered when planning therapy.

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