Talking across time: Using reported speech as a communicative resource in amnesia

Melissa C. Duff, Julie A. Hengst, Daniel Tranel, Neal J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Patients with amnesia may have more than pure memory deficits, as evidenced by reports of subtle linguistic impairments on formal laboratory tasks in the amnesic patient HM. However, little attention has been given to the impact of memory impairments on language use in regular, colloquial interactions. We analysed reported speech use by individuals with amnesia. Reported speech (RS), in which speakers represent thoughts/words from another time and/or place, requires management of two temporal frames, making it an interesting discourse practice in which to explore the impact of memory deficits on interactional aspects of communication. Aims: This study: (1) documents frequency, type, and temporal contexts of reported speech used in discourse samples; (2) compares reported speech use by amnesic and comparison participants; (3) examines the interactional character of reported speech use in these discourse samples. Methods and Procedures: Derived from a broader study of the discourse practices of individuals with amnesia, this study uses quantitative group comparisons and close discourse analysis to analyse reported speech episodes (RSEs) in interactional discourse samples between a clinician and each of 18 participants, 9 individuals with amnesia and 9 comparison participants (NC). Outcomes and Results: Reported speech was used by all participants. However, significantly fewer RSEs were produced in amnesia sessions (273) than in NC sessions (554). No significant group differences were observed for type or temporal domain. In addition, for the participants with amnesia, post-amnesia past RSEs differed qualitatively from the other RSEs in the data. Conclusions: These findings have important implications for understanding the interdependent relationship of memory and language, point to the value of examining interactional aspects of communication in the empirical study of brain-behaviour relationships, and reconceptualise interaction as a target in the remediation of functional communication following brain injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-716
Number of pages15
Issue number6-8
StatePublished - Aug 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • LPN and LVN


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