UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Investigating conversational grammar in aphasia: towards a clinical assessment method


Therapist researchers:Dr Suzanne Beeke
Dr Wendy Best, Professor Mick Perkins (Sheffield
FunderEconomic & Social Research Council/Medical Research Council

The project investigates grammar in the conversational talk of people with agrammatic aphasia, and compares it with the grammar produced by the same people when asked to describe pictures and retell a fairy story. Grammar can vary a great deal between the two types of talk, as these examples show: (a) speaker A, from a picture description: "the girl is lifting up the baby"
(b) speaker A, from conversation with her friend at home: "middle one,
(pause) forty years old, (pause) Valentine's day."

The project involves analysing video-recorded conversations and speech and language therapy assessments for two people with agrammatism. Computer software is used to investigate the role of prosody, specifically how pitch is used to help the listener know which words are part of the same 'sentence' even though there is no grammar as such, for example in a phrase like 'racing, er Newmarket, Epsom, anywhere, but me er Ascot, no.'

The results of this work will be used to begin to develop a method for the assessment of grammar in conversation, making links with established conversation-based approaches such as 'Supporting the Partners of People with Aphasia in Relationships and Conversation' (SPPARC, Lock, Wilkinson and Bryan, 2001) and 'Conversation Analysis Profile of People with Aphasia'
(CAPPA, Whitworth, Perkins and Lesser, 1999).


Beeke, S, Wilkinson, R & Maxim, J (2007) Grammar without sentence structure: A conversation analytic investigation of agrammatism. Aphasiology, 21 (3-4) 256-282.

Beeke,S., Wilkinson,R., Maxim,J. (2003a). Exploring aphasic grammar 1: a single case analysis of conversation. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 17(2), 81-107.

Beeke,S., Wilkinson,R., Maxim,J. (2003b). Exploring aphasic grammar 2: do language testing and conversation tell a similar story? Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 17(2), 109-134.