Speakership Asymmetry During Topic Talk Involving a Person with Aphasia


  • Scott Edward Barnes Macquarie University
  • Alison Ferguson University of Newcastle




aphasia, Conversation Analysis, topic, functional communication


This paper uses Conversation Analysis to investigate the organisation of topic talk during interactions involving a person with aphasia (Valerie). Approximately three and a half hours of everyday conversation between Valerie and her conversation partners was collected and analysed. It was found that Valerie’s conversation partners took on primary speakership more often during topic talk, and held the floor for longer periods of time. It is argued that this pattern was the product of weak alignment with Valerie’s topic talk initiations, trouble that arose during Valerie’s extended turns, and Valerie’s promotion of speakership for her conversation partners. These observations point towards the importance of conversation partners’ conduct in promoting the success of extended turns produced by people with aphasia. Finally, it is suggested that the findings of interaction-focused research can help specify and expand notions of functional communication.

Author Biographies

Scott Edward Barnes, Macquarie University

Scott Barnes is a speech-language pathologist, and postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Aphasia Rehabilitation, the University of Sydney. He is currently using CA to investigate everyday interactions involving people with acquired communication disorders.

Alison Ferguson, University of Newcastle

Professor Alison Ferguson has over 20 years’ experience in the field of speechlanguage pathology, and heads the speech pathology programme at University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research explores the application of sociolinguistic theory to the analysis of interactions involving people with aphasia, students and speech-language pathologists. Her publications include: Expert Practice: A Critical Discourse (2008, Plural Publishing), and Researching Communication Disorders (with Professor Elizabeth Armstrong, 2009, Palgrave Macmillan).


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How to Cite

Barnes, S. E., & Ferguson, A. (2012). Speakership Asymmetry During Topic Talk Involving a Person with Aphasia. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, 3(1), 27–46. https://doi.org/10.1558/jircd.v3i1.27