Comparison of nonspeaking and speaking mentally retarded adults' clarification strategies


Interactions between speaking and nonspeaking persons using communication boards have frequently been found to be plagued by conversational breakdowns. Previous investigators, drawing upon anecdotal evidence, have painted a scenario in which the nonspeaker confuses the listener by transmitting an ambiguous message, the listener then requests clarification, the nonspeaker fails to clarify, and the discourse is abruptly terminated. The present study examined 5 speaking and 5 nonspeaking moderately-severely mentally retarded subjects' responses to their Listeners' requests for clarification. An informal conversational format was used to evoke 40 possible repairs from each subject. Few differences were noted with respect to the ways in which speaking and nonspeaking subjects revised or failed to revise their messages. Both groups were highly responsive to their listeners' requests for clarification; subjects rarely ignored or changed the topic of discourse following these listener requests. However, unlike previous reports of nonretarded normally developing language-disordered children operating at comparable mental and linguistic levels, these speaking and nonspeaking subjects generally repeated their ambiguous messages rather than revising them. The results indicated the need to develop techniques for teaching speaking and nonspeaking retarded adults alternate methods of repairing conversational breakdowns


Communication Sciences and Disorders

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Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

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