Communication & Medicine, Vol 7, No 2 (2010)

Halting Aphasic Interaction. Creation of Intersubjectivity and Spousal Relationship in Situ

Tarja Aaltonen, Minna Laakso
Issued Date: 1 Apr 2011


This article discusses a communicative phenomenon that is studied relatively little: getting stuck in an aphasic conversation. Although aphasia as a medical and linguistic condition has been widely examined, the more social and participatory aspects of the symptom are not so well-known. Aphasia forms a threat to the emergence of a shared understanding, as well as to the experience of being in the shared, i.e. intersubjective, social world. In the analysis, we closely explore how a shared understanding is constructed in the sequential organization of conversation. In our study we use two data corpora when analyzing the halting interaction. In our data, we detected two kinds of interactive halts that emerged in connection with aphasic word searching. Firstly, ‘real halts’ were caused by the aphasic person’s inability to find correct words and, on these occasions, the co-participants were also not able to resolve the problem. Secondly, ‘exam halts’ occurred when the co-participant did not provide the missing words despite knowing what the aphasic speaker was trying to say. We discuss how the phenomenon is linked with the ideas of intersubjectivity and face-work and conclude that real halts are more directly caused by the aphasic condition, whereas exam halts reflect spousal relationship in the form of face-work.

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DOI: 10.1558/cam.v7i2.95


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