Conversation and Brain Damage

Conversation and Brain Damage

Conversation and Brain Damage

Conversation and Brain Damage

Synopsis

How do people with brain damage communicate? How does the partial or total loss of the ability to speak and use language fluently manifest itself in actual conversation? How are people with brain damage able to expand their cognitive ability through interaction with others - and how do these discursive activities in turn influence cognition? This groundbreaking collection of new articles examines the ways in which aphasia and other neurological deficits lead to language impairments that shape the production, reception and processing of language. Edited by noted linguistic anthropologist Charles Goodwin and with contributions from a wide range of international scholars, the articles provide a pragmatic and interactive perspective on the types of challenges that face aphasic speakers in any given act of communication. Conversation and Brain Damage will be invaluable to linguists, discourse analysts, linguistic and medical anthropologists, speech therapists, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, workers in mental health care and in public health, sociologists, and readers interested in the long-term implications of brain damage.

Excerpt

The chapters in this volume focus on the analysis of how the talk of parties suffering from aphasia, and other language impairments resulting from trauma to the brain, is organized within talk-in-interaction. This volume provides a new, pragmatic, and interactive perspective for the analysis of aphasia and other neurological deficits (see also the special issue of Aphasiology, 13, nos. 4/5 [1999] edited by Ray Wilkinson and Lesser and Milroy 1993). Most research into the effects of brain damage on linguistic abilities has focused primarily on processes inside the individual patient, for example, what patterns of language breakdown can tell us about the cognitive architectures and brain structures implicated in normal language processing. Methodologically, patients' abilities have typically been assessed in isolation from relevant interactive and pragmatic contexts. However, damage to the brain has equally important consequences for the organization of talk-in-interaction, the primordial site where language emerges as action in the lived social world, and the place where the results of brain damage become both visible and consequential for people's lives. Moreover, it has long been recognized that traditional assessment measurements of language deficit do not correlate well with actual ability to engage successfully in real-world interaction. On the one hand, people with fairly intact syntactic and semantic ability have difficulty in engaging in social interaction outside the laboratory. On the other hand, parties with very severe language impairments are nonetheless able to say quite complicated things by successfully using the social and cognitive resources provided by the sequential organization of conversation to tie their talk to the talk of their interlocutors, as this volume shows. A focus on how damage to the brain shapes discourse sheds new light on both the practices participants use to ac-

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