Defusing practices as mitigation in speech and language intervention


  • Christina Samuelsson Linköping University
  • Charlotta Plejert Linköping University
  • Jan Anward Linköping University



adults with aphasia, children with language impairment, clinical interaction


In the present paper, speech and language intervention was investigated in order to explore the use and function of defusing practices. Defusing practices may be viewed as a special form of mitigation. In previous research, including studies on clinical interaction, mitigation has been described mainly as devices used in order to reduce the unwelcome effects of an utterance, or reduce the discomfort of bad news. Defusing practices, however, appear to serve somewhat different functions, which are examined here. Data comprises video and audio recordings of eight intervention sessions with children with language impairment (LI), and six intervention sessions with adults with aphasia, The analysis revealed the following kinds of defusing practices: circumscriptions/figurative language, diminutive words, words like ‘try’ or ‘test’, placing the problem outside of the patient, collective pronouns, diminishing the speech and language pathologist’s own competence, encouragement, and references to well-known phenomena. If speech and language therapists (SLPs) are made aware of the practice and function of defusing, they may make conscious use of these practices in order to reduce face-threatening situations in intervention

Author Biographies

Christina Samuelsson, Linköping University

Christina Samuelsson received her PhD in Speech and Language Pathology from Lund university, Sweden. her current position is associate professor of Speech and Language Pathology at Linköping university. her research mainly concerns how people with communicative disabilities interact and use language, with a specific focus on prosody.

Charlotta Plejert, Linköping University

Charlotta Plejert received her PhD in Linguistics from Linköping university. She is currently associate professor at the Department of Culture and Communication, Linköping university. her research interests include Conversation analysis, communicative disabilities in children and adults, and second language interaction and acquisition.

Jan Anward, Linköping University

Jan Anward received his PhD in Linguistics from uppsala university. he is currently professor at the Department of Culture and Communication, Linköping university. his principal research interests are language as a dynamic system, life-long language learning, the use and development of linguistic resources in various interactional contexts, including informal conversation, classroom interaction, and speech therapy, and the place of individual voices in various interactional and cultural contexts.



How to Cite

Samuelsson, C., Plejert, C., & Anward, J. (2014). Defusing practices as mitigation in speech and language intervention. Communication and Medicine, 11(3), 299–312.