Collaborative storytelling with a person with aphasia

Promoting agency in a multiparty interaction


  • Helene Killmer University of Oslo
  • Suzanne Beeke University College London
  • Jan Svennevig University of Oslo/University of Agder



Aphasia, Storytelling, Conversation Analysis, Gaze, Agency, Collaboration


Introduction: This study explores practices employed by a person with aphasia (PWA) and his wife to organize collaborative storytelling in a multiparty interaction. We identify practices that further the PWA’s agency – his impact on action – while he is telling a story together with his wife.

Method: Using conversation analysis (CA), we carried out a case study of a successful storytelling sequence involving a 39-year-old man with anomic aphasia during a conversation with friends.

Analysis: The PWA contributed to the storytelling by initiating the story sequence and by producing short but significant utterances in which he provided essential information and displayed epistemic authority. The spouse aligned with the PWA’s initiated actions and supported his agency by giving him room to speak, for example, by gaze retraction.

Discussion: The analysis offers insight into practices that allowed this PWA to achieve agency. Our findings show that communication partner training could benefit from implementing activities such as collaborative storytelling.

Author Biographies

Helene Killmer, University of Oslo

Helene Killmer is a doctoral research fellow at the University of Oslo, using conversation analysis to investigate interactions involving persons with aphasia. She studied speech therapy, linguistics and speech and language pathology in the Netherlands and in South Africa, and has worked as a speech-language therapist, lecturer, and research assistant in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany.

Suzanne Beeke, University College London

Dr. Suzanne Beeke is an associate professor in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at University College London. Her research focuses on communication disability in post-stroke aphasia, traumatic brain injury, and dementia, particularly their impact on everyday conversations in the home and on healthcare interactions. She is lead author of ‘Better conversations with aphasia,’ a free online resource:

Jan Svennevig, University of Oslo/University of Agder

Prof. Dr. Jan Svennevig is professor of Language and Communication at the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan (MultiLing), University of Oslo and at the University of Agder, Norway. He is the principal investigator of a research project on ‘Language and communication in multilingual speakers with dementia’ (2016–2020). He has conducted research on second language interaction, workplace meetings, Norwegian discourse markers, and conversations involving persons with dementia.


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How to Cite

Killmer, H. ., Beeke, S. ., & Svennevig, J. . (2021). Collaborative storytelling with a person with aphasia: Promoting agency in a multiparty interaction. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, 11(1), 78–104.