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School of Health Sciences

Strengthening the theoretical framework for discourse treatment in aphasia


1st supervisor: Lucy Dipper
2nd supervisor: Madeline Cruice

Research Centre

Language and Communication Science

Project Description


Improving the discourse skills of people with aphasia is a challenge for speech and language therapists despite an acknowledgement of the negative impact of discourse difficulties on quality of life and social participation. One reason for this challenge is the lack of linguistic theory underpinning existing discourse treatments; as well as a need to bridge the link between current word and sentence level treatments and discourse intervention without an accepted theoretical framework to structure this. This PhD project is targeted at filling these theoretical gaps. Evidence for the beneficial effect on discourse of SLT intervention is beginning to emerge in the literature but the lack of theoretical underpinning to the treatment design makes the interpretation of often complex results difficult and hinders suggestions for improvement. This PhD study aims to address this barrier.

The PhD Study

This PhD is aimed at identifying and creating new theoretical insights about discourse processing in order inform aphasia therapy.

The student will:

  • Systematically review the theoretical literature about discourse in order to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of competing theoretical frameworks; as well as to identify those frameworks most able to account for discourse processing.
  • Systematically review the clinical SLT literature in order identify a theory of therapy, with which a new theory of discourse therapy might be synthesised.
  • Compare the competing frameworks to the linguistic properties of discourse in existing databases of aphasic language, in order to identify the model(s) which best account for the data.
  • Survey expert opinion on which of the competing frameworks best accounts for the linguistic properties of discourse commonly encountered clinically.

Further reading

  • Webster et al. 2015. Is it time to stop “fishing”? A review of generalization following aphasia intervention. Aphasiology, online.
  • Linnik et al. 2015. Discourse production in aphasia: A current review of theoretical and methodological challenges. Aphasiology, online.
  • Bryant, L., Ferguson, A., & Spencer, E. (2016). Linguistic analysis of discourse in aphasia: A review of the literature. Clinical linguistics & phonetics, 1-30.
  • Bryant, L., Spencer, E., & Ferguson, A. (2016). Clinical use of linguistic discourse analysis for the assessment of language in aphasia. Aphasiology, 1-22.

Recommended Skills / Prior Learning

  1. Linguistics
  2. Discourse
  3. Aphasia