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Echolalia or functional repetition in conversation - a case study of an individual with Huntington's disease

Journal article
Authors Charlotta Saldert
Lena Hartelius
Published in Disability & Rehabilitation
Volume 33
Issue 3
Pages 253-260
ISSN 0963-8288
Publication year 2011
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation
Pages 253-260
Language en
Keywords Communication disorders, talk-in-interaction, progressive neurogenic disease, Huntington’s disease
Subject categories Logopedics and phoniatrics


Purpose: In this case study, we investigated the use of repetition in an individual with a neurogenic communication disorder. Method: We present an analysis of interaction in natural conversations between a woman with advanced Huntington’s disease (HD), whose speech had been described as sometimes characterised by echolalia, and her personal assistant. The conversational interaction is analysed on a sequential level, and recurrent patterns are explored. Results: Although the ability of the person with HD to interact is affected by chorea, word retrieval problems and reduced comprehension, she takes an active part in conversation. The conversational partner’s contributions are often adapted to her communicative ability as they are formulated as questions or suggestions that can be elaborated on or responded to with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The person with HD often repeats the words of her conversational partner in a way that extends her contributions and shows listenership, and this use of repetition is also frequent in ordinary conversations between non-braindamaged individuals. Conclusions: The results show that the conversation partners in this case cooperate in making the conversation proceed and evolve, and that verbal repetition is used in a way that works as a strategy for compensating for the impairment.

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