Halting Aphasic Interaction. Creation of Intersubjectivity and Spousal Relationship in Situ


  • Tarja Aaltonen University of Tampere
  • Minna Laakso Department of Speech Sciences




aphasia, intersubjectivity, conversation, spousal relationship, word search


This article discusses a communicative phenomenon that is studied relatively little: getting stuck in an aphasic conversation. Although aphasia as a medical and linguistic condition has been widely examined, the more social and participatory aspects of the symptom are not so well-known. Aphasia forms a threat to the emergence of a shared understanding, as well as to the experience of being in the shared, i.e. intersubjective, social world. In the analysis, we closely explore how a shared understanding is constructed in the sequential organization of conversation. In our study we use two data corpora when analyzing the halting interaction. In our data, we detected two kinds of interactive halts that emerged in connection with aphasic word searching. Firstly, ‘real halts’ were caused by the aphasic person’s inability to find correct words and, on these occasions, the co-participants were also not able to resolve the problem. Secondly, ‘exam halts’ occurred when the co-participant did not provide the missing words despite knowing what the aphasic speaker was trying to say. We discuss how the phenomenon is linked with the ideas of intersubjectivity and face-work and conclude that real halts are more directly caused by the aphasic condition, whereas exam halts reflect spousal relationship in the form of face-work.

Author Biographies

Tarja Aaltonen, University of Tampere

Tarja Aaltonen is working as an assistant professor in social psychology at the Department of Social Research, in University of Tampere, Finland. Her research interests include themes like inter-subjectivity, talk-in-interaction, narrative studies and experiences of chronic conditions like aphasia or allergies.

Minna Laakso, Department of Speech Sciences

Minna Laakso is a docent and a senior lecturer at the Department of Speech Sciences, in University of Helsinki. Her research interests include aphasia, children’s interactions, inter-subjectivity, and repair organization.



How to Cite

Aaltonen, T., & Laakso, M. (2011). Halting Aphasic Interaction. Creation of Intersubjectivity and Spousal Relationship in Situ. Communication and Medicine, 7(2), 95–106. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.v7i2.95