Clinical linguistics and speech-language pathology
A multilevel investigation of the discourse of Polish language speakers diagnosed with mixed aphasia (R. Dębski – principal investigator, P. Wójcik-Topór)
Aphasia, an impairment of language caused by injury to the brain, is a burning issue in our society due to its negative impact on quality of life. Linguistically informed studies have aimed to explain language impairment in aphasia drawing on linguistic theory and research findings. Recently, an increase in linguistic analyses of aphasic discourse can be observed. Following the premises of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), research has to date addressed such topics as: description of aphasic discourse, discourse treatment and discourse measures/analysis methods. The present project will address the pressing need for studies exploring the connection between the micro- and macro-linguistic approaches to discourse analysis and will contribute a new set of results to the current debate on the impact of lexical-grammatical impairment on the delivery of meaning. The project will focus on mixed aphasia, the most common aphasia type diagnosed in clinical settings, yet rarely investigated in this context, and will draw data from the Polish language. Issues of cohesion and coherence in the discourse of Polish speakers diagnosed with aphasia have not been addressed sufficiently.
The project therefore aims to study the discourse of Polish-speakers with mixed aphasia to: 1) describe and measure the linguistic devices and patterns of cohesion; 2) develop a Polish adaptation of van Leer and Turkstra’s (1999) local and global coherence measuring scales; 3) investigate the relationship between the micro- and macro-linguistic aspects of discourse; 4) explore the impact of mixed aphasia on discourse cohesion and coherence, and 5) investigate the relationship between discourse genre and linguistic cohesion and coherence.
The research participants will be 20 patients with the diagnosis of mixed aphasia with a motor component, 20 patients with mixed aphasia with a sensory component and 20 brain-healthy patients, serving as control participants. The aphasic patients will be matched one-to-one on age, gender and education level with brain-healthy individuals to enable comparisons. The AphasiaBank (https://aphasia.talkbank.org) data gathering protocol will be used to collects recordings of the different genres of discourse. The audio recordings will be transcribed orthographically and analysed using lexical analysis, grammatical analysis, directed content analysis, quantitative content analysis, and local and global coherence analysis. Correlation analysis and the general linear model will be used to compute relationships among the scores of the quantitative analyses.
The proposed project is innovative and timely. Firstly, it will contribute much-needed evidence to verify the current hypotheses on the relationship between the micro- and macro-linguistic aspects of aphasic discourse. Secondly, the research will involve participants diagnosed with mixed aphasia, an aphasia type rarely investigated in this context. Thirdly, it will provide new evidence on aspects of cohesion and coherence of Polish aphasic discourse, so far absent in the literature. These project innovations will allow to advance linguistic knowledge and make significant contributions to the applied discipline of aphasiology. Also, popular local and global coherence measuring scales will be translated into Polish, standardised and validated, equipping Polish aphasiologists and speech pathologists with a new research/clinical tool. The source data will be made available internationally through the AphasiaBank database.
The lived experience of aphasia: a phenomenological study of Polish stroke patients using the NVivo qualitative data analysis software (P. Wójcik-Topór – principal investigator, R. Dębski – research advisor, P. Horbatowski, M. Knapek)
Injury to the left hemisphere of the brain usually results in language deficits that affect communication competence and, as a result, the psychological and social well-being of patients. The current international and Polish research on aphasia focuses mainly on linguistic descriptions of the communication deficits that result from aphasia (Hillis 2015; Panasiuk 2015). Studies of the experiences that accompany people diagnosed with aphasia, and especially studies focusing on people who have managed to “defeat” their deficits and live successfully, are much less popular. There is a need for research which would highlight the various positive experiences in people affected by aphasia, around which speech pathologists could build therapeutic goals (Brown et al. 2010), as well as research conducted in Poland, taking into account the influence of ethnic culture on recovering from and living with aphasia (Armstrong et al. 2012; Damico 2009).
The present pilot study poses the following general research question: "What are the feelings and emotions which accompany Polish people diagnosed with aphasia?" The research will be carried out using the phenomenological interview, often used as a methodology in attempts to describe lived experience (Ablewicz 1994). A purposely selected sample of five monolingual people of Polish origin diagnosed with aphasia will participate in the research. The interview data will be analysed using the NVivo qualitative data analysis software. The research results will enrich the growing stream of international research resulting from the International Classification of Functioning (ICF) (WHO, 2001), which emphasizes the importance of the psychosocial aspects of disease (Pąchalska 1999). The research outcomes will increase our understanding of the lived experience of aphasia and can be applied to develop culturally sensitive therapeutic instruments and protocols used in Poland and in Polish diasporas overseas, e.g., in the UK or USA.
Development of reading skills in Polish and English in bilingual children diagnosed with dyslexia: a pilot study (R. Młyński – principal investigator, R. Dębski – research advisor)
Verification of the hypothesis of central language processing in bilingual children diagnosed with dyslexia remains an unresolved problem in world research, with evidence coming from different language pairs (e.g., Gupta & Jamal, 2006; Obler 1989). The proposed project is an attempt to contribute to this area of research by drawing on data coming from Polish-English bilingualism, that is from a pair of languages with a transparent and non-transparent orthography, respectively. The following research questions are proposed for the study: 1) What reading errors are observed in bilingual children diagnosed with dyslexia when they read in Polish? 2) What reading errors are observed when the same children read in Polish? 3) What are the qualitative and quantitative relations between the identified errors in reading in Polish and in English? Participants in the present research will be 10 school children diagnosed with dyslexia, living in Chicago, USA, and representing Polish-English bilingualism. The data collected in the process of reading selected words in Polish and in English will undergo qualitative and quantitative analyses using error classifications developed by Gupta and Jamal (2006) and Savage and Hill (2001). The research results will contribute to the international debate on the underlying causes of dyslexia as well as the relationship between dyslexia and bilingualism.