LINGUIST List 14.65

Thu Jan 9 2003

Review: Applied Linguistics: Fava (2002)

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  1. sepstein, Fava (2002), Clinical Linguistics

Message 1: Fava (2002), Clinical Linguistics

Date: Wed, 08 Jan 2003 17:13:10 +0000
From: sepstein <>
Subject: Fava (2002), Clinical Linguistics

Fava, Elisabetta, ed. (2002)
Clinical Linguistics: Theory and Applications in Speech Pathology and Therapy.
Benjamins, xiv+353pp, hardback ISBN 1-58811-223-3, $86.00,
Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 227.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Shari A. Epstein, University of Arizona

In her book, Clinical Linguistics: Theory and Applications in Speech
Pathology and Therapy, Elisabetta Fava brings together 17 papers
presenting research done on the language of clinical populations (ie.
populations who have been diagnosed with a language disorder). The
underlying theme throughout all of the papers is that the linguist is
a scientist and therefore should constantly reevaluate linguistic
theories in light of new data. In this way, clinical data can
illuminate not only the underlying functions of disordered language,
but also affect how we understand those of normal language.
One of the greatest strengths of this collection is that it draws from
many languages. This allows a particular disorder to be examined in
different linguistic contexts and for theories to be tested on
languages other than those with which they were developed. For
example, Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is studied by different
researchers in children speaking Dutch, Greek, Zulu, and Japanese.
Theories can be tested by using languages especially suited for a
particular question and conclusions can therefore be drawn across
languages. Of course, there is an inherent danger in doing so.
Namely, it relies upon the assumption that a given disorder presents
in the same way, and is indeed the same disorder, regardless of the
language spoken (for further discussion of this, see the chapter by
Tanaka Welty, Watanabe, & Menn). However, the fact that a disorder
can be studied in very different linguistic contexts in and of itself
supports the idea that the disorder is independent of a specific
language. In addition, disorders linked to biological causes, for
example brain lesions in the case of aphasia, should share certain
characteristics across languages.
Unfortunately, Fava does not take complete advantage of the
organization of her collection. While the chapters are grouped by
topic allowing the reader to better integrate the points made; Fava
herself does not discuss them as a group in a meaningful way. Even in
her introduction, each paper is discussed individually with only a
single paragraph linking their general ideas. Conclusions from one
paper are not synthesized with those from another.
 The grouping allows the reader to draw her/his own impressions but more
in-depth discussions of each section as a section would have also been quite

The first section, Phonology in Clinical Applications, contains two
papers. Both begin with a phonological theory and then use clinical
data to support it by showing that the theory is able to explain the
data. The first paper is Yishai Tobin's 'Phonology as human behavior:
Theoretical implications and cognitive and clinical applications'.
Unlike most of the papers in the collection, this paper did not use a
disordered population but rather a normally developing one that has
not fully mastered spoken language. In it, Tobin discussed the theory
of Phonology as Human Behavior (PHB) and used it to explain clinical
patterns found in children who make phonological errors. PHB states
that there is conflict between the desire for maximum communication
and minimum effort. Therefore, Tobin argued, the phonological errors
can be explained reducing effort at the expense of communication.
It is only when there is a break down in communication that a child
would need to correct her/his errors. Tobin's paper is followed by
one by Dirk-Bart den Ouden entitled 'Segmental vs syllable markedness:
Deletion errors in the paraphasias of fluent and non-fluent aphasic'.
Different patterns of errors were found for fluent and non-fluent
aphasics indicating a different in the adherence to markedness which
was explained using Optimality Theory (OT). While a statistically
significance difference was found between the two types of aphasia,
there was still variation within each type. This, while not stated in
the paper, may have been due to subjects' having different degrees of

Three papers make up the second section, Words in Deafness and
Stuttering.It is not clear why these two populations were put together
except that both are presented as performance, but not language
disorders. In the paper regarding deafness, Roberto Ajello, Giovanna
Marotta, Laura Mazzoni, and Florida Nicolai looked at the
morphological errors made by Italian adults with profound deafness in
their paper, 'Morphosyntactic fragility in the spoken and written
Italian of the deaf'. Both spoken and written samples were collected
and analyzed. It was found that morphological skills were
significantly below lexical skills indicating that grammatical
morphemes posed a particular problem for this population.

The EXPLAN theory was applied to both the diagnosis of stuttering
(Peter Howell and James Au-Yeung's 'The EXPLAN theory of fluency
control applied to the diagnosis of stuttering') and the treatment of
stuttering (Peter Howell's 'The EXPLAN theory of fluency control
applied to the treatment of stuttering').According to this theory,
occasionally the planning for a word will not have been completed by
the time the word should be spoken. Compensatory techniques include
pausing and repeated the previous word. In those who stutter, often
the individual will attempt to say the word with an incomplete plan
risking a fluency failure. Therefore, therapy exercises that teach
the individual to slow down her/his rate of speech are often
successful because they allow a greater planning time for each word.
This paper offered a good example of how linguistic theory can be
directly applied clinically in addition to clinical data being applied
to the theory.

The third section, Morphology and Syntax in Child Language Disorders,
is much more cohesive than the second. The four papers in it all
address specific language impairment (SLI) in different linguistic
populations. Because different languages have different morphological
and syntactic rules, cases of SLI should present differently depending
on the language spoken yet similarly enough to be treated as cases of
the same disorder. In addition, certain languages lend themselves to
the testing of general hypotheses about SLI because they either have
or lack specific types of rules.
Roelien Bastaiaanse, Gerard Bol, Sofie van Mol, and Shalom Zuckerman's
paper entitled 'Verb movement and finiteness in language impairment
and language development' compared the production of finite verbs in
Dutch by normally developing children, children with SLI, and adults
with agrammatic aphasia.
They found that it was not the actual production of the finite verbs
that was difficult for these populations but the verb movement
suggesting syntactic rather than morphological impairment. However,
the different populations did not compensate in the same way. The SLI
group compensated in a way that was similar to a hybrid of the other
two in that their compensations contained features of compensations
made by normally developing children and by agrammatic adults.
Further support for a syntactic impairment in SLI is found in 'A-bar
movement constructions in Greek children with SLI: Evidence for
deficits in the syntactic component of language' by Stavroula
Stavrakaki. Again, it was the movement of verbs that emerged as a key
Susan Suzman's 'Morphological accessibility in Zulu' took a different
approach by focusing on morphology rather than syntax. Zulu, being a
highly inflected language, offers several opportunities in which to
study impaired morphology. Because of this difference, Suzman argued
that children, even those with SLI, who speak Zulu did not use
uninflected verbs and did not appear to have difficulty with
agreements. This was in marked contrast to English-speaking children
with SLI and reinforced the idea that morphology itself is not
necessarily affected by SLI.
Japanese, like Zulu, allows SLI to be further teased apart. In fact,
Japanese is so different from most other languages in which SLI has
been studied that Yumiko Tanaka Welty, Jun Watanabe, and Lise Menn
('Language production in Japanese preschoolers with specific language
impairment: Testing theories') first established whether SLI can even
exist in a Japanese-speaking population. Indeed, their findings did
not support any of the hypotheses of SLI which they set out to test
leading them to form a cognitive overload account of SLI.

Issues on Grammar and Cognition are explored in the three papers in
the fourth section. The relationship between language and cognition
is one that must be delineated both in clinical and research
paradigms. Leah R. Paltiel-Gedalyovich, in 'Testing linguistic
concepts: Are we testing semantics, syntax or pragmatics?', raised the
question of what exactly standardized language tests test. Since all
tests of language must involve cognition to some extent, there is a
risk that what is called a language impairment by the test may
actually be a cognitive impairment. Specifically, a child with an
impairment in pragmatics might be labeled as having a language
impairment (eg. SLI) because she/he missed a significant percentage of
the test items.
Modularity is an important word when discussing the relationship
between language and cognition. Simply put: Is language a separate
function or does it make use of processes that overlap with
non-linguistic functions? Dusana Rybarova explored this by focusing on
SLI ('Specific language impairment and modularity: Linguistic and
non-linguistic explanations'). She argued that by using a model of
'weak modularity', SLI can be described in a way that addresses both
linguistic and non-linguistic contributions to language. SLI was
compared to Williams syndrome as a way to separate language and
cognition in Vesna Stojanovik, Mick Perkins and Sara Howard's paper,
'The language/cognition interface: Lessons from SLI and Williams
syndrome'. In SLI, language performance is significantly below that
of cognition whereas in Williams syndrome, the reverse is true.
Stojanovik, Perkins, and Howard's findings argued against a clear
split between language and cognition (what Rybarova described as
'strong modularity'). Instead, correct language use, supporting the
findings of Paltiel-Gedalyovich, was reliant upon both linguistic and
cognitive functioning.

The fifth and final section (Grammatical Structure in Aphasia),
containing five papers, is the largest. In the first paper, 'Grammar
and fluent aphasia', Susan Edwards studied the grammatical errors made
by four subjects with fluent aphasia (Wernicke's aphasia). Usually
this type of lesion is associated with word-retrieval errors.
However, Edwards was able to show that not all of the errors were the
result of a lexical impairment. Rather, she argued that there was
limited access to grammatical processes as well.
Anna Gavarro looked at grammar by studying language samples by
individuals with aphasia from a variety of languages in 'Failure to
agree in agrammatism'. This paper used previously collected samples
to test several linguistic theories and provided a model for doing so.
In addition, it demonstrated the role theory has in the collection and
organization of data. Not only is this paper interesting for what it
had to say about agrammatism, it offered several insights to the
relationship between language samples and theories.
'The Verb and Sentence Test: Assessing verb and sentence comprehension
and production in aphasia' by Judith Rispens, Roelien Bastiaanse, and
Susan Edwards is one of the most clinically applicable papers in the
collection. It presented and evaluated specific tasks included in the
Verb and Sentence Test (VAST) to assess aphasia. As in the previous
paper, emphasis was placed on the role linguistic theory has on actual
practice: The VAST included only tasks that are supported by theory.
This is useful because, as demonstrated by the following paper, some
errors may occur only as a result of another impairment and therefore
should not be assessed separately. According to Esther Ruigendijk's
'Case assignment as an explanation for determiner omission in German
agrammatic speech', it was an impairment in the production of finite
verbs that led to other errors in determiner production. Even though
all ten of the subjects omitted determiners in spontaneous speech,
most were able to correctly produce them when given a verb.
The final paper in the collection is 'The role of verbal morphology in
aphasia during lexical access: Evidence from Greek' by Kyrana
Tsapkini, Gonia Jarema, and Eva Kehayia. Unlike the previous papers
which focused on grammar in aphasia, this paper examines lexical
access. This is in marked contrast, for example, to 'Grammar and
fluent aphasia' by Susan Edwards which tried to remove lexical access
as a factor. Together, these papers complement each other.


As demonstrated, even though each of the papers is interesting in and
of itself, the real value of the collection is in the integration of
the various ideas presented. It is in this way that the reader will
be able to gain a richer understanding of the field as a whole. In
addition, ideas from one section can be constructively applied to
those from another. The overlap in ideas found in the SLI and aphasia
sections is the most apparent, although certainly not the only,
example of this. Even without this, however, Fava's Clinical
Linguistics: Theory and Applications in Speech Pathology and Therapy
is both useful and instructive.


Shari Epstein is currently working towards a MS in speech-language
pathology at the University of Arizona. She holds a BA from
Washington University in St. Louis. Her interests include language
disorders in children and the application of research from various
fields including linguistics, psychology, and neurology to language
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