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Figurative language impairment in aphasic patients

Author(s): Anna B. Cieślicka | Karolina Rataj | Dorota Jaworska

Journal: Neuropsychiatria i Neuropsychologia
ISSN 1896-6764

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: aphasia | language impairment | figurative

Purpose: The present study is a pilot test designed toverify the Figurative Language Battery that we havedeveloped to explore figurative language skills ofindividuals with aphasia.Material and methods: Eight left brain damagedpatients and ten controls were tested using the battery.The battery consists of four parts, each of which focuseson a different figurative trope (idioms, metaphors,proverbs, and similes), and employs either a MultipleChoice task (choosing the correct paraphrase fromamong literally related and unrelated distractors) or anOral Completion task (providing the last, missing wordof the figurative phrase). Data were collected inindividual sessions during which participants were askedto complete the figurative language battery.Results: Overall, patients showed a strong literal biasin comprehending figurative expressions, i.e., theytended to interpret idioms and metaphors in a literal,rather than figurative, manner, consistent with findingsreported in the literature. In addition, the obtainedresults confirm that the type of figurative tropesignificantly affects performance of individuals withaphasia. Patients performed significantly better onoverlearned sequences, such as proverbs or similes, thanon idioms and metaphors. Conventional metaphors wereeasier to understand than unconventional (novel) ones,and opaque, unambiguous idioms were easier thantransparent, ambiguous ones.Conclusions: The type of figurative trope, and possiblyalso the type of task, affect figurative performance ofindividuals with aphasia. The study carries importantimplications for designing diagnostic tools aiming touncover figurative language impairment in aphasia.

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