Interpretation of graphic symbol utterances

Ann Sutton, Tanya M. Gallagher, Jill P. Morford, Navid Shahnaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Utterances produced using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems may have characteristics that present challenges for interpretation by listeners. In particular, limited use of grammatical markers or unconventional word orders may encourage listeners to use interpretation strategies that differ from those based on spoken language grammatical structures. In this study, graphic symbol utterances produced on an AAC device with voice output were presented to 43 adult speakers of English. Participants indicated their interpretation of each utterance by choosing a photograph from an array. The results suggest that participants interpreted the utterances based on adjacent word pairs, regardless of the ordering of words within the pair. This strategy resulted in different interpretations for word sequences depending on their adjacent word pair membership. The findings suggest that word adjacency may be more important than order of mention in listeners' interpretations of AAC messages and that listener feedback to AAC users may be less consistent for AAC messages than for spoken sentences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
JournalAAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)
  • Grammatical markers
  • Listener comprehension
  • Utterances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Speech and Hearing


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