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Language mixing in bilingual speakers with Alzheimer's dementia: A conversation analysis approach

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Nick Miller


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Bilingual speakers with Alzheimer's disease (AD) may use the wrong language for the setting/interlocutor or produce what appears to be an inappropriate mixture of their two languages. The few published studies to date examining this phenomenon have investigated it within a discourse analysis framework, interpreting the behaviour either as a problem of language choice (choosing the appropriate language in which to converse) or language separation (keeping two languages separate in production). These authors contend that while such a distinction is theoretically feasible, it is extremely problematic to apply these labels to actual conversational data. Using examples from free conversations of four bilingual women with AD, some of the difficulties inherent in a discourse analytic approach to this question are illustrated. Applying principles from conversation analysis (CA) it is argued that a methodology that is data driven and context relevant offers more valuable insights into individuals' language use and interaction. It avoids the inconclusiveness of the choice separation dichotomy and offers more constructive accounts of whether and how language behaviour is appropriate or not.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Friedland D, Miller N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Aphasiology

Year: 1999

Volume: 13

Issue: 4-5

Pages: 427-444

Print publication date: 01/04/1999

ISSN (print): 0268-7038

ISSN (electronic): 1464-5041

Publisher: Psychology Press


DOI: 10.1080/026870399402163


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