Discourse topic management skills of mildly mentally retarded adults

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Discourse topic management skills of mildly mentally retarded adults
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People with mental disabilities -- Language   ( lcsh )
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Speech thesis Ph. D
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Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1986.
Bibliography:
Bibliography: leaves 58-62.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Beverly Boling Goldner.
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Typescript.
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Vita.

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Full Text












DISCOURSE TOPIC MANAGEMENT SKILLS OF MILDLY MENTALLY RETARDED ADULTS














By

BEVERLY BOLING GOLDNER


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY


UNIVERSITY


OF FLORIDA


____















ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


am grateful


to all


those who offered


advice,


allowed


time


discussion,


provided practical


assistance,


thus making


this


project


possible.


In particular,


thank my


committee chairperson,


Dr. Linda J.


Thomas


Lanbardino,


Abbott,


other members of my


D. Kimbrough Oiler,


Kenneth J.


ccamittee,

Gerhardt,


Drs.

and


Patricia H.


Miller.


My thanks


are


also due


to the twelve men who participated


study


They


are


clients


of the Monroe


Associ


ation


Retarded


Citizens,


the Miami


Beach Activity Center,


the Florida


Keys Comnunity


College Marine


Propulsion


Program,


the Key West High School


Diversified


were


Cooperative


the directors of


Training


these


Program.


programs,


Also of


Susan Fagan


special

(MARC),


assistance

Mark


Cherney


(MBAC),


Joseph


Carbonell


(FKCC),


and John Bogue


KWHS) .


Finally,


am especially


thankful


to my


husband,


Bill


Goldner,


for his


advice


encouragement


throughout my professional


endeavors.















TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............................................... ii

ABSTRACT....................................................... v

CHAPTERS

I INTRODUCTION............................................. 1

Pragmatics and Language Use of Mentally Retarded Persons. 4
Review of the Literature on Comaunicative Ccmpetence
of Mentally Retarded Adults......................... 7
Review of the Literature on Discourse Topic Management... 15
Rationale for the Study of Discourse Topic Skills of
the Mentally Retarded Population.................... 17
Objectives of Current Study.............................. 19

II METHODS AND PROCEDURES................................... 21

Subjects..................... ............... ............. 21
Data Collection...................................... .... 23
Development of Coding System............................. 24
Additional Measures of Topic Management.................. 28
Transcript Preparation and Coding....................... 30
Reliability......*. ............ ......... ................. 31

III RESULTS.................................................. 33

Topic Manipulation Categories............................ 33
Additional Measures of Topic Manipulation................ 35
Effects of Context..............................,,....... 36

IV DISCUSSION............................................... 38

Methods of Investigation................................. 38
Discussion of Subject Characteristics.................... 40
Discussion of Results................................ 41
Relationship of Findings to Previous Research........... 42









APPENDICES

A INFORMED CONSENT FORM ....................................

B ADDITIONAL EXAMPLES OF TOPIC MANIPULATION CATEGORIES....

C SAMPLE TRANSCRIPT.......................................

D GUIDELINES FOR DIVIDING UTTERANCES..N...................

E TRANSCRIPT NOTATION.....................................

BIBLIOGRAPHY..... ..............................................

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................















Abstract of Dissertation Presented


to the Graduate School


of the


University of


Florida


the


in Partial


Fulfi


Degree of Doctor


llment of the
of Philosophy


Requirements


DISCOURSE TOPIC MANAGEMENT SKILLS OF MILDLY MENTALLY RETARDED ADULTS

By


Beverly


Boling Goldner


August,


1986


Chairman:


Major


Linda J.


Department:


Lonbardino
Speech


This

management


included


study was


skill


mildly


undertaken


to examine


of mildly mentally


retarded males


the discourse


retarded


who were


adults.


clients


topic

The subjects


of sheltered


workshops.


enrolled


They were matched

blue-collar level


with

job


nonretarded males


training


who were


programs.


The experimental


tasks


were


designed


to elicit


discourse


conversational


settings.


In the


first


setting,


each


subject was


interviewed by the


investigator;


in the second


setting,


each subject


engaged


in a


conversation


with a


fellow trainee.


Five categories


discourse data:


of topic manipulation


topic maintenance,


were


topic match,


examined


from


topic change,


topic


shade,


topic


reintroduction.


Four


additional measures of


topic


management


were


also analyzed.


These were


average


number of


topics


was









No significant


differences were


found between groups.


Continuous discourse


(topic maintenance and


topic match)


comprised a


high proportion of


the total


number


of utterances


in both settings.


Discontinuous discourse


topic


change


topic reintroduction


comprised a much smaller proportion of


utterances


in both settings.


Topic


shading,


which appears


later developmentally than


the other


categories of manipulation,


was present


in approximately the same


proportion


the retarded and


nonretarded


samples.


The data


reflected active participation by subjects


both groups


ability to successfully


an analysis of


introduce


variance demonstrated


and develop new topics.


that subjects


Finally,


both groups


contributed a similar proportion of


utterances whether


engaged


in an


interview with


the investigator


or engaged


informal


conversation


with a peer,


suggesting


that


context


was


not a significant


factor


this study.


findings


of this


study were


in agreement


with recent


investigations which support


a competence model


of cammnunicative


abilities


for retarded persons.


It appears


that


certain aspects of


communicative competence such as


turn-taking,


the use of


communicative

in social int


functions,


eraction,


topic management may be


and may


be mastered even


strongly based


the case of


diminished cognitive


linguistic


functioning.















CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION


Over


past


two decades,


language of mentally


retarded


persons


been


analyzed


extensively.


The dominant


trends of


this


research may


be determined


by reviewing


various


volumes


edited


during


this


time


period


(Schiefelbusch,


Copeland,


and Smith,


1967;


Schiefelbusch,


1972;


McLean,


Yoder,


and Schiefelbusch,


1972;


Schiefelbusch and


Lloyd,


1974).


During


late


1960s and


early


1970s,


the emphasis


linguistic


research was


based


on a model


of linguistic competence


which


was


rather narrow and


traditional


in scope.


In studying


communication of mentally retarded


persons,


the main


concern was


whether


these


individuals could


produce


sentences


which were


phonologically


grammatically well-formed and


could


understand


such


sentences when


they


heard


them.


Such


a determination was


based


mainly on data derived


from


tests


conducted


clinical


settings.


This


line


of research


rendered


a negative


view of


linguistic


abilities of


the mentally retarded


population.


Kernan,


Turner,


Langness,


Edgerton


(1978)


point out


important


reasons


for this


restricted


focus


the research of


that


period.


To begin with,


the ability


to produce


recognizable


sounds,








words,


and sentences and


to understand


them


is the


necessary


foundation


upon which all


other


linguistic and speech skills are


built.


Accordingly,


gathering


information concerning


these


basic


aspects


camnunication


is a


legitimate


endeavor.


Secondly,


because


the primary


concern was


an understanding


structure of


language


and not


of its


use,


there was


no analytical or theoretical


model


upon


which


research on broader


aspects of


communication could be


based.


Recent


developments


have demonstrated


that


linguistics and


linguistic abilities


behavioral sciences


necessary for


individual


to function as


a fully


competent member of


society go


beyond an


individual


s linguistic


competence,


that


ability to


produce


understand


well


-formed sentences.


A broader view of


competence


emerged which


includes


linguistic


competence,


but also


recognizes


need


to examine


language


as it


occurs


in natural


settings,


as it


influenced


the contexts


in which


occurs,


as it


serves


the functions


that


speaker


intends


Kernan


et al


1978).


until


a recent


publication,


Bases of


Language


Intervention


(Schiefelbusch,


programmatic


1978),


bow to


does


one


interactional


begin


to find more


aspects


than a


in the study


of language


and mental


retardation.


In this


volume,


Miller presented an overview


of language assessment


which


included


evaluation


functions


interactions,

remediation,


and Rees

in which


encouraged

the uses of


organismic


lancquaqe


formed


approach"


the basis of









Miller


(1978),


Rees


(1978),


and others


reflect


theoretical


shift


that has


taken


place


in speech-language pathology


as a result


the focus on


introduced


pragmatic


this


aspects


field


of language.


Elizabeth Bates,


term pragmatics


a developmental


psychologist,


who defined pragmatics as


"rules governing


the use of


language


in context"


(1976,


420).


Historically,


evolved


insights


from knowledge


into disordered


of the normal


communication


development and


have


use of


language.


While


the theoretical


basis


of the current notion of


pragmatics must be


attributed


to philosophers


such as


Pierce


(1878),


Wittgenstein


(1958


Austin


(196


and Searle


(1969),


[see


Prutting


(1982)


an historical


review],


field of


speech-language


pathology has


been


influenced most


directly by


recent


research


area of


child


language.


advent of


pragmatic


considerations


to the


related


investigation


of "outside"


to the acquisition of


language;


rather than


social


"inside"


as well


factors


as cognitive


factors


are


This

study of


thought


investigation


pragmatic


to influence


represented


considerations of


the acquisition


the natural

comnunicati


process.


extension of th

on to the adult


population.


It also


recognized


need


data


regarding


performance of


management sk

in an attempt


disordered


ills of


populations.


mildly mentally


to provide


information


The discourse


retarded adults

concerning the


topic


were examined,

communicative


competence of


that


segment


of the retarded


DoDulation


which


is most


was









Pragmatics and Language


Use of Mentally Retarded


Persons


It is estimated


or 6.5 million Americans,


that approximately


are


retarded.


percent of


Within


population,


the mentally retarded


population,


these


figures


break


down


into 86.7


percent


at the mild


level,


10.0 percent


at the moderate


level,


percent at


severe and


profound


levels


(Chinn,


Drew,


Logan,


1975


According


AAMD),


general


to the American Association on Mental


"mental retardation refers to

intellect functioning existing


Deficiency


significantly subaverage

concurrently with deficits


adaptive


(Grossman,


behavior


and manifested during


1973,


Significantly


the developmental


subaverage


period"


intellectual


functioning may be


assessed by standardized


intelligence


tests


refers


to performance


that


is two or more


standard deviations


below


the mean


of the test.


In the


case


of the


Stanford-Binet,


this means


an IQ

the r


range of


ange


52-68;


is 55-69


(Bensberg


case

and


of the Wechsler


Sigelman,


Intelligence Scale,


1976).


Adaptive


behavior


is defined


as "the effectiveness or degree


with


which


the individual


meets


the standards of


personal


independence


social


responsibility


expected


cultural


group"


(Grossman,


1973,


180).


The AAMD Adaptive


Behavior


Scale


(AAMD,


assessing


1969)


level


was developed


adaptive


specifically for


behavior.


Mildly


purpose of


retarded adults are


considered


to be capable of


and vocational


adequacy with


nroner


education


(J IU


training


I(Chinn


et- al..


1975).








he or she


talks"


(1981,


p.1).


This


is of


particular


consequence


for mildly mentally retarded


adults,


as they


are more


likely to be


judged


by normal


standards


than


are other


levels of


retarded adults.


to current


impaired,


they


emphas is


are


on deinstitutionalization of


the ones who are often mainstream


the mentally

d in public


schools,


later


encouraged


to live


independently


find


competitive employment.


If we


accept Mishler


s statement


that


"how


talks


reveals who one


(1975,


118),


we further


realize


significance of


a speech


or language


impairment among


this


population.


The past


few years


have seen


a growing


interest


relationship of


persons.


social


context


approach


been


to language


to examine


use


in mentally


language


use


retarded


terms of


participants


' identities


(Bedrosian


Putting,


1978;


Bleile,


1984;


Owings and McManus,


1980).


This method


demonstrated


that


connunicative performance

by conversational roles.


of mentally

A second aDo


retarded


proach has


person

been


influenced


to use


ethnographic methods


to gather


in-depth


information


in a particular


social


context


(e.g.,


a sheltered


workshop)


assess


relationship


between behavioral


norms


in this


setting


language


(e.g.,


Anderson-Levitt,


1983,


1984;


Turner,


Kernan,


Gelphman,


1982).


A third


line of


investigation


employed


ethnographic methods


to explore


particular


aspects


of communicativee


design,


"the


ability


to design


an utterance


to fit


a comnunicati


one


use








methods acknowledge


that


in order


language successfully,


speakers must


know a system of


rules


conventions


for using


language


in a


range of


settings with


various


interlocutors.


This


the concept


that Hymes


(197


describes as


communicative competence.


Although knowledge of


developmental


pragmatics


has grown


considerably


pragmatics

Research i


over


past decade,


in disordered


language


an understanding


still


s particularly sparse


of the


in an embryonic


population


role of


stage.


of mentally


retarded adults.


vividly


that our past


Preliminary


investigation


characterizations


in this


area


language


demonstrates

abilities of


mentally


retarded


persons were


based


on too


narrow a


view of


communication.


Sabsay


stated


that


an individual
depend solely
of phonology,


s caanunicative


on his
syntax,


linguistic


effectiveness


competence


vocabulary).


comanunicative competence--his


does


(his


knowledge


It depends also


knowledge of


how to use


the language


he has.


. (1975,


Sabsay proceeded


to demonstrate


that


even severely


retarded


adults


are capable of


communication


that


subject


to the


same


basic


patterns


as that


of normally


competent


adults


children"


great deal more


complex"


than previous


studies


would suggest


1975,


Review of


Literature on


Communicative C


tence of


Mentally


Retarded Adults


Kernan and


Sabsay


1981,


1982,


1983,


1984,


1985)


have


focused


on the commnnunicative


competence


of mildly mentally


retarded adults


,IC


1-_ 1


. I


:ompe


mn l^ ..,.. ^.. .1-


A ~~IYItmln








additional


studies


involving


this


population


(Abbeduto and Rosenberg,


1980;


Bleile,


1984


In a latter section


this


chapter,


investigations


of the communication of


lower


levels or


combined


levels of


retarded


adults


are


reviewed.


Research on


Cacmunicative Abilities of Mildly Mentally Retarded


Adults


In three


studies,


Kernan


Sabsay


(1981,


1982,


1983)


examined


the use of


language


by mildly


retarded


adults


in naturally occurring


conversations and


interviews.


Fran


their


observations,


they were


able


to describe


a number of


characteristic deficiencies.


First,


retarded adults


often


have difficulty


conveying


intended meanings


their


listeners.


When


telling


a story,


for example,


they


are


likely


to omit


important


background


information,


or to confuse


the listener


with


irrelevant


detail


Additionally,


they have problems with


appropriate


use of


communicative


style


content


in various


situations.


For example,


they may talk


loudly


public places


or give


intimate details of


their


lives


to total


strangers.


After


retarded

speech e


forming


adults,


vents


general


Kernan


for more


impress ions


and Sabsay

systematic


regarding


selected

study. T


speech


two specific


hese were


of mildly


types of


narrations and


directions.


Kernan and


Sabsay


(1984


tested


ability


retarded and


nonretarded adults


to give directions


to their


homes.


Eighty-six


percent of


the nonretarded


adults


were


able


to either


give accurate











the nonretarded sample


(e.g.,


one gives


what should be


a right


turn


as a


left


turn),


but with greater


frequency.


These errors do


reflect


deficits


in what Kernan and Sabsay


call


cannunicative


design.


However,


percent


of the retarded


sample


"made errors


that


were


unlike


those made


by nonretarded


adults:


errors of


communicative


competence


that


involved a


lack of


knowledge of


structure and


function


directions


or a lack


of ability


cammunicative design"


36).


In summary,


retarded adults made


errors


similar


to those of


nonretarded


adults,


but with greater


frequency


not evident


They also made errors of


nonretarded


communicative design which were


sample.


A study


involving


narrative


reports


allowed Kernan and


Sabsay


1985)


to evaluate mildly


retarded


adults


referential


skills.


They


found


that


compared


to nonretarded speakers,


mildly


retarded subjects


introduced


fewer than half


as many


referents


(first mentions)


into


their


narratives,


resulting


in an


incompleteness


their


stories.


Additionally,


the mentally retarded


speakers made over


seven


times


many errors


in forms of


first mentions


(e.g.,


incorrectly using


man


instead of


a man)


than did


nonretarded


speakers.


Kernan and


Sabsay noted

introducing


"task


that th

at least


difficulty


e retarded


percent


subjects were


successful


of the referents,


and incomplete mastery


in adequately


suggesting


of linguistic


forms,


that

rather


than sane global


performance


type of


retarded


egocentrism


speakers" (


' accounts


As in


poor


case of giving








Bleile


(1984)


studied


conversations between


two speech-language


pathologists


speech


(SLPs)


clinic and


two mildly


subjects


retarded men


haoes.


in a university


of the conversations


contained


episodes of


"catmunicative distress,


" which was


operationally defined as one of


following


conditions:


disparity


the speakers


' average


turn


lengths;


a disparity


use of


questions and


imperatives


the members of


the dyad;


presence of


metacomnunications,


that


a stretch of


utterances


devoted


to analyzing


speech signal;


the presence of vocal


or physical mannerisms


that


could


potentially


interfere with


conveyence of messages.


Specifically,


average


turn


lengths of


the SLPs were


longer than


those of


retarded men


in four of


conversations.


The SLPs dominated


the topics


conversations.


Two of


SIX


conversations


contained


vocal


physical


gestures


or mannerisms


which


interfered with


the conveyance


of messages.


of the conversations


contained metacomnunications,


implying


indicated


potential


that


or actual


conversations


miscamnunication.


clinic


results


setting were


also


more


distressed


than


those


in the home


setting.


Abbeduto and


Rosenberg


(1980)


examined


turn-taking


of illocutionary


types


communicative


functions


seven mildly


retarded adults.


They


concluded


that


turn-taking of


retarded


adults was


communication


as efficient


errors were


as that


of the


committed


nonretarded adults.


by the


retarded subjects,









Furthermore,


the majority


of all


subjects


turns


functioned as


members of


adjacency pairs,


the majority of which


were


non-


obligating,


suggesting


that


they were


actively


attempting


to gain and


provide inform

agreements, de

conversational

developed comnn


nation and

nials, ac

behavior


indicate


perlocutionary effects


knowledgements,


for which


unication skill


was


etc.


there was

the use o


by using


The only aspect of

no evidence of well-

f indirect speech acts.


In light


previous


research


which


indicates


that


this


skill


acquired by age


three


years


(Dore,


1977


investigators


speculated


failed


that


to elicit


the conversational


instances of


situations employed may


indirect


have


speech acts.


Linder


1978a,


1978b


observed


"high-functioning"


retarded men


level


unspecified


interview situations.


He concluded


that


they were


able


strategies


to employ


order


a broad


to avoid


range of


trouble


in this


"normal"


conversational


setting.


a passive


mode,


they


allowed


interviewer


to determine


pace,


tone,


topics


for discussion.


understanding,


guessed


a more


at answers,


active

and


fashion,


relied


they fe


signed


on ambiguity.


Linder


noted


that


use of


these


devices


often gave


rise


to trouble


rather


than


ensuring


its avoidance.


Research


on Commnunicative


Abilities


Lower


Mentally Retarded Adults


and Caombined


Levels of


Turner


et al.


1982


studied


speech etiquette


in a sheltered


workshop


range


= 29-75).


They pointed out


that a basic


cultural








workshop society


and are grounded


fundamental


concerns of


members.


example,


any mention of


incompetency


in others


strictly


taboo.


Similarly,


speech


impediments


are


ignored and


fabrications which allow members


to build


self-esteem are


tolerated


even


corroborated.


authors


contend


that


this


special


system


of speech etiquette


facilitates a secure,


harmonious environment for


cooperating members.


Anderson-Levitt


(1983)


examined


ability


of three mentally


retarded adults


(IQ range


= 44-61)


to resolve


peer


conflicts.


Weekly


workshop meetings were


structured


in such a way


that


clients


could


learn


social


Anderson-Levitt


cognitive


concluded


that


skills of


peer problem resolution.


the men displayed sane


sophisticated


connunicative skills


(e.g.,


holding


floor


through


drama and


humor)


in dealing with


their


conflicts.


suggested


that


next


step


to determine whether or


these skill


are generalized


other


settings.


In a second


recurring


study,


interactional


Anderson-Levitt


settings,


and Platt


dinnertime at


1984)


a group


used

home


two

and a


group meeting


at a sheltered workshop,


to illustrate


impact of


social


adults.


context


They


on the


found


speech


that


of mildly


participants


and moderately


' definition of


retarded


setting


had a


significant


effect


on their


language


use with


respect


to the


organization of


turn-taking


occurrence of


typical


speech


events.


Talk


during dinner was


strictly


incidental


involved








meeting,


in contrast,


was


defined as


an "arena


normalcy,


" where


clients discussed personal


problems without


intervention of


nonretarded


participants.


In this


setting,


a richness of


speech


emerged


which was


evident


in dinnertime conversation and was


characterized


elaborate storytelling,


problem resolution,


dramatizing,


fantasi


zing.


Turns


at talk were extremely variable


length.


Owings and McManus


(1980


analyzed


nine


communicative


functions


e.g.,


commands,


questions,


repetitions)


used by a moderately


retarded


adult male


a group


hco e.


three


conversational


settings examined


involved subject and


counselor,


subject and


resident


nine


peers,


functions,


subject speaking


used


to self.


them differentially


The

across


subject used all

settings,


suggesting


that he was


aware of


Soc


conventions


regulating


use of


functions


different


speaking


situations.


Elias,


with


S igelman,


88 mildly-severely


Danker-Brown


retarded


adults


(1980


examined


order


interviews


to determine which


verbal


nonverbal


behaviors


are


associated with making positive or


negative


impressions.


Verbal


behaviors


were


found


to be


the most


potent


predictors,


with


speech


intelligibility


responsiveness


questions exerting


strongest


influence on


ratings of


personality


characteristics


competence.


final


severe


study


in this discussion


and moderately retarded


is a soc


adults


iolinguistic


range


= 29-36)


analysis


engaged








submissive)


their


express ion


control


through patterns of


questioning


not hold


(chaining


the dominant


and arching).


position


Three


in any


of the


four subjects did


the conversational


settings;


, the majority


their bids were


submissive


(speaker


in need of


information).


subjects expressed


control,


the types of


control


expressed


across


subjects


varied as a


function of


interlocutor.


adults'


functional


authors


recommend


conmnunicative


the evaluation of


performance


various


retarded

natural


settings


teaching


strategies


expressing


control.


Status of


Current Research Regarding


Conversational Abilities


'of Retarded Adults


With


the exception


investigation


narrative


of Kernan and Sabsay


reports


s (1985)


by mildly retarded


clinical


adults,


Elias


associates


' (1980


examination


interview behavior


mildly-severely


retarded


adults,


of the


studies


reviewed


relied


on naturalistic observation


data


collection.


Conversations were


recorded


as participants


took


part


in regularly occurring


events


such


as mealtimes,


group meetings,


therapy


sessions.


The ethnographic methods employed


these


studies


have


established


used


that


by retarded


context


adults.


is an important


determinant


As Anderson-Levitt


Platt


of the


(1984


language


pointed


out,


terse


exchanges


of dinnertime


talk


were


in marked


contrast


to the


lengthy


debates


the group meetings.


Moreover,


in sane


cases


retarded adults were


skillful


in using


strategies


to deal


- a t 19 r a


*I I


L_ -


*~ -I r qq^








This


new body


research


is focused on


interactional


skills


which permit one


derived


to succeed


from sociolinguistics,


have shifted attention


away


in face-to-face


anthropology,


from a


situations.


other


deficit model,


Methods


related areas


favor of


competence nodel


language


use


retarded


individuals.


At the


same


time,


recognized


that


transition


from


institutions,


group hones,


sheltered


workshops


to independent


living

results


arrangements


failure


and

for


ccapetitive employment

the retarded adult. Do


is one


that often


cumentation


lacking


concerning


ability


retarded adults


to generalize


conversational


skills


toa


variety


of settings


in order to meet


demands of


community


living.


Observation of


these


individuals


cannunity strongly suggests


that sociolinguistic deficits may be a


factor


contributing


to their


lack


success


this


area.


Additional


descriptive data are


needed


to evaluate


conversational


skill


of retarded adults


in a


variety


of situations.


At the


same


time,


comparisons


with


nonretarded


persons


are


needed


order


to identify patterns


of successful


interaction.


This


information


enables


the clini


cian


to select appropriate


target


behaviors


training.


area which


received


attention


that of


discourse


topic management.


Recent


normative data


demonstrate


that


this


skill


is essential


to the cohesiveness


of conversation.


The current study


proposed


to provide


information


regarding


ability of


mildly








Review of


Literature


on Discourse


Topic Management


term discourse


topic appears


frequently


in pragmatic


literature.


Keenan and


Schieffelin defined a discourse


topic


proposition


of propositions


expressing


a concern


set of


concerns )


the speaker


is addressing"


(1976,


Stech


(1982)


proposed


that


conversation


is organized


into


topic sequences


that


speakers


manipulation of


topic


helps


to arrange groups of


utterances


into conversational


segments.


Vuchinich


(1977)


experimentally


demonstrated


between

matter o


that


discourse


conversational

'f content, but


turns.


also


topic


Thus,


involves


a means of

discourse

procedures


establishing


topic

for


cohesion


not simply


topic


manipulation which make conversations


work


(Maynard,


1980).


Brinton and


Fujiki


(1984


examined


normal


developmental


trends


topic manipulation


in discourse.


Their study


included


5-year-


olds,


9-year-olds,


young


adults.


They


found


that


the number


topics


introduced


reintroduced


within


a sampling


period decreased


with


age,


whereas


proportion


topics maintained


increased


with


age.


Additionally,


subjects maintained


topics


longer


sequences


of utterances


with


increasing


age.


Topic


shading,


in which smne


aspect of


the propositional


content


an utterance


is derived


frcr


the preceding


utterance,


topic


focus


is not strictly


maintained,


increased with


age.


This


study provided


important


developmental


data


on topic manipulation.


Several


investigations


have


focused


on the topic management of








studies


have shown


that


the ability


to minimally


initiate


maintain


conversational


discourse


is established


within


the mother-


child


network


during


second


year


of life.


Topic


initiation


decreases,


while


topic maintenance


increases,


on the


part


of both


mothers


children,


as children advance


age.


Byrne


Hayden


(1980)


found


that


3- to 5-year-old


children


interacting with


their mothers were


able


to maintain between


percent of


topics


introduced


either party.


Wanska and Bedrosian


(1985)


examined


discourse


participation and


topic performance


in mother-child


interaction with 30


children


functioning within


preoperational


period.


The children


this


group shared


similar


characteristic


of conversational


participation


with their mothers

and proportion of


on measures

talking. In


of rate of


terms


talking,


of topic


length


performance,


of talking,

mothers


played


a primary


role


facilitating


the cohesiveness


of discourse.


tendency


for mothers


to maintain


topics more often


than


their


children

utterance


remained


MLU)


consi


stent across


However,


with


children


increasing


s age


and mean


and MLU,


length


children


improved


topic management,


of topics maintained,


longer


as demonstrated


sequences


a greater proportion


continuous discourse,


use of


topic


shading,


a more


sophisticated


conversational


strategy.


There


been


speculation


concerning


possibility


specific


topic manipulation


problems


language-disordered








(acknowledging)


responses


to maintain


topics when compared with


normal


controls.


Data


on other disordered populations are


available.


The ability


of mildly retarded


adults


to manipulate discourse


topics


been


examined.


This


line of


investigation may prove


fruitful


in determining why


speech


this disordered


population


strikingly different.


Rationale


Study of


Discourse


Topic Skills


of the Mentally


Retarded Population


ability


to introduce


and maintain


topics


is essential


effective coanunication.


A number of


factors


suggest


that


mentally retarded


most obvious


population may


is the question of


lack


whether


competence


there


this


area.


sufficient


cognitive


development


to allow


for mature


topic management.


Minimally,


individual


must


recognize


that


verbal


communication mediates


between


the minds of


different


speakers.


This


implies


that


in order


successfully


initiate


a discourse


topic,


one must


be able


to express


s unique


thoughts


in a way


that makes


them accessible


to another


person.


This


involves


an understanding


of others


minds and


knowledge


they may


have


see


Foster


[1985]


further


discussion of


this


issue).


Additionally,


psychological


processes,


such as memory,


attention,


hierarchical


planning


appear


to be


important


to topic


management.


Mental


retardation may


result


inadequate


development


1 I -I 1- ^Jf *'. n .1


one


__ ~


*


r 1


I I


1 1







Foster


(1985)


suggests


that linguistic


factors may


also


contribute


to failure


topic management.


Once conceptualized,


topic must receive appropriate


linguistic expression.


Even among


mildly retarded populations,


incidence of


language


problems


been


reported


to be as


high as


percent


Schlanger,


1967).


Additionally,


if grammar


pragmatics


are


fundamentally


independent


developments,


then


the mastery


of discourse


topic skills must


involve


the successful


interaction of


insufficient language


base or


two.


Therefore either


an insufficient


linkage of grammar


pragmatics may


lead


to faulty topic management.


A final area of


concern which seems


particularly


relevant


the mildly


retarded population


that of


social


factors.


We have


little


information concerning


socialization of


retarded.


role of


Successful


communication


verbal


in the


interactions


community


involve


use of


language which


is sensitive


appropriateness


of topic,


as well


as such


features


as politeness


social


status.


As Kernan


et al.


(1978


point


out,


life


in an


institution,


sheltered workshop,


or a sheltered


communicative demands on an


family


individual


situation may make


which may


prepare


perform acceptably


in alternative


roles


in the


community.


They


hypothesize


that


causes


of ineffective sociolinguistic


performance


may be


inability to adapt


behavior to different situations


(including


different


interlocutors


an insensitivity


to the social








obtain


in certain situations,


or a language


learning environment


which


individuals are


exposed


to or


required


to learn


those


rules"


(1978,


32).


As noted


earlier,


poor


communication skill


hinder


individual


s entry


into community


life


and affect how he


perceived


treated by


others.


They may


also contribute


to negative self-


evaluation.


Additional


information


regarding


communication of


mentally


retarded


front a


individual


variety


needed .


of settings,


This


with different


information must be derived


interlocutors


different


important


cannunicative goals.


Where


to determine whether


incompetence occurs,


situationally


specific,


whether


linguistic,


social,


or cognitive


in origin.


Objectives


of Current Study


current study was


prompted


need


to study


further the


conversational


skills of


mentally


retarded adults.


Recent


studies


have


caused


researchers


to grant


new status


to mentally


retarded


persons as


communicators.


However,


the majority


of these


studies


offer only


a general


description


of their


abilities.


This


study proposed


a more


in-depth


investigation of


one aspect


comnunicative competence,


discourse


topic management.


Emphasis


was on


interactive


nature of


conversation


in natural


settings and


the role of


the interlocutor


in influencing


the behavior of mentally


retarded


persons.


Additionally,


a comparison group of


nonretarded








What


patterns of


discourse


topic manipulation are


used


by mildly retarded and


Do mildly retarded


nonretarded


nonretarded


adults


adults demonstrate


patterns of


as a


function


conversational pa
n of participants


rticipation which
' identities?


vary


there


significant


differences


between mildly


retarded


nonretarded


adults


with


respect


above


patterns?


In light


of normative data


provided


by Brinton


Fujiki


(1984


which show significant


differences


in topic manipulation by 9-year-


olds and adults,


it was


hypothesized


that


the mentally


retarded


subjects would demonstrate patterns of


topic management which were


significantly different


than


those of


nonretarded subjects.


Additionally,


it was


hypothesized


that


both groups would demonstrate


significant


differences


in topic management


behaviors


in an interview


setting


as opposed


to a


peer


to peer


conversation.














CHAPTER


METHODS


PROCEDURES


The curre

competence of


study was


mildly retard


designed

ed adults


to investigate


examining


the

their


comnunicative

ability to


manipulate discourse


topics.


Patterns of


topic manipulation


used


six mildly retarded and


nonretarded males


two conversational


settings were described


compared.


Four


additional measures of


topic management


were


also analyzed.


Subjects


Subjects were


six mildly mentally retarded


six nonretarded


males


between


ages


17 and


years.


Criteria


for selection of


retarded


subjects


were


IQ within
of the su


No apparent


the range of


pervising


physical


52-75,


as indicted


by records


agency;

1 anomalies;


Intelligible


speech,


as judged


the investigator;


English


dominant;


No apparent neuromotor


involvement;


Hearing within


audiametric


current


normal


testing


limits,


conducted


as measured


within


study.


five years of


. Active


participation


a sheltered


workshop program.


retarded


subjects


were


participants


in community









investigation,


programs were


similar


in structure.


Daily


activities


included


vocational


portion


academic,


of both


self-help,


programs


vocational


involved


training.


landscaping


shadehouse maintenance.


Four


of the retarded subjects


lived


in group


hone settings,


while


lived


at home with


their


families.


Additional


information


regarding


found


Table


2.1.


Table


Ages and


IQs of


the mentally retarded


subjects.


Subject

1


PAIS-R


Bender-Gestalt
WAIS-R
WAIS-R
Bender-Gestalt
Bender-Gestalt


nonretarded


subjects were


involved


vocational


training


programs designed


competitive


participated


half


prepare


job market.


regular


of the school


them for


Two subjects


academic


received


blue-collar


were


employment


high school


vocational


on-the-job


skill


training


in a


seniors who


training


during


other half.


One was


learning


bicycle


repair,


while


the other was


stockroom worker.


The other


four


subjects were enrolled


in a marine


propulsion program,


which


provided


instruction


in diesel


and gasoline


engine


repairs.


This was a


certificate


program sponsored


by a


camnunity


college.


subjects


in this group


ranged


in age


from 17








Data


Collection


Subjects


were


audiotaped


-15 minutes


each


of two


conversational


settings.


A time


range was


used


to acccmxodate


variability


in extemporaneous discourse;


some conversations


came


toa


natural


stopping point


earlier


than


others.


first


setting


involved an


individual


interview with


investigator.


second


setting


involved


casual


conversation


with a


peer.


subjects


each dyad were


previously


acquainted


attended


classes


together.


retarded


subjects were


audiotaped at


the sheltered workshop.


nonretarded subjects were


audiotaped at


either


high school


or the


community


college.


Each


subject was


recorded


first


the interview setting.


Prior


to recording,


the nonretarded


subjects were


asked


to read and


sign an


informed


consent


form


(see


Appendix


which


explained


that


investigator was gathering


information


regarding


conversational


skill


that are


important


a young person who wants


to be


successful


worker.


This


same


form was


read


to the retarded


subjects


interviewer


they were


asked


to sign


form.


addition,


program director


or workshop


supervisor


co-s


signed


consent


forms


for the nonretarded


high school


students and


retarded


subjects.


During


interview,


participants were


asked


to talk


about


their work,


their


future


plans,


other


relevant subj


ects.


interviewer


attempted


to provide


for a relaxed


conversational








provide


the subjects with a means of


comfortably


initiating


conversation.


They were


instructed


to begin by discussing


videotape,


to feel


free


to discuss


any topic which might come up


natural


course of


conversation.


investigator


then started


tape


recorder and


left


roao.


Development of


Coding


System


A system of


discourse


topic coding


developed by Brinton and


Fuj iki


(1984)


was


used as


basis


analysis of


topic


manipulation.


Following


empirical


testing,


several modifications were


made


to this


system


in an attempt


to provide additional


information


concerning


conversational style


to eliminate


ambiguities


found


the original


tem.


taxonomy which


resulted


included


five major


categories of


discourse


topic manipulation


which are described


below.


Additional


examples of


utterances


within


each


category


are


provided


in Appendix B.

Topic Maintenance


After


a topic was


introduced,


the topic was


considered


maintained


the topic of


the utterance which


immediately


preceding utterance


either


followed


added


incorporated


or requested


additional


information.








Example:


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


Tell me


about


Nursery Work


Introductory Topic;


work
here
sery.


that


at the


We have


here
cone


you do


Requesting


Information


nur-


a nursery
people


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


in to buy


plants.


long


have


Topic Maintenance;


been working


here


Requesting


Information


Well,


maybe


three


Topic Maintenance;


months.


Adding


Information


Topic Match


After


a topic


was


introduced,


topic was


considered matched


the utterance


which


immediately


followed


satisfied


one of


these


three


conditions:


topic of


the utterance


matched


preceding


with,


utterance


or emphasized


in content;


the preceding


utterance


utterance


acknowledged,


, thereby passing


agreed


turn


to the other


speaker;


utterance


performed


a ritualistic


function,


such


as a greeting


or a courtesy.


A topic coded


as topic


match


allowed


continuity


in the


conversation


either


added or


requested


a minimal


amount


information.








Example


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


see


is open
a week.


e nursery
five days


Nursery
Schedule


Introductory Topic;


Adding


Information


open


nursery is
five days


Topic Match,


Adding


week.


Information


Do you work
day?


every


Topic Maintenance;


Requesting


Information


DoI
day?


work


every


Topic Match;


Requesting


Information


Example


Speaker


Utterance


Manipulation


The workshop
really busy.


Workshop


Introductory Topic;


Adding


Information


Topic Match;
Agreeing


Example


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


These plants
beautiful.


are


Plants


Introductory Topic;


Adding


Information


Thank


you.


Topic Match;
Courtesy


Topic Shade


A topic was


considered


to be shaded


utterance met both of


following


criteria:


topic


focus was


not strictly


maintained,


shifted


from one


utterance


to the


next;


Sane


aspect of


propositional


content


of an utterance was derived


frcn


Topic








Example:


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


The marine


sion
very


class


propul-
sounds


Marine


sion


Propul-


Class


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


interesting.


What
are !

I'm
ters


other


classes


Other Classes


taking?


taking
for B


Topic


Shade;


Requesting Information


Ccanpu-
eginners.


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


I have
ter at


a new ccnpu-
mv office.


s New Cacn-


puter


Topic Shade;


Adding


Information


Topic Change


A topic was


topic


considered


previously


changed


discussed


an utterance


either


introduced a


added or requested


information.

Example:


Speaker


Utterance


Manipulation


rne nursery
improved a


past


has
lot


Nursery


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


year.


has.


Do you


Topic Match;
Agreeing


like Miami


Miami


Topic Change


Requesting


Topic


Information


Reintroduction


A topic was considered


to be reintroduced


an utterance


addressed


a preceding


immediately preceding


topic,


either


added


or requested


information.


Topic


]








Example:


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


Your plans


sumner


Summer


Plans


are exciting.


just hope


all my
spring.


exams


pass
this


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Exams


Information


Topic Shade;


Adding


Information


What
stop


s your first
in Europe?


unlOer


Plans


Topic


Reintroduction;


Requesting


Information


Additional Measures


of Topic Management


Four additional measures of


topic management were


analyzed.


first was


average


number of


topics


per minute.


This was


coaputed by


dividing


the total


number of


topics


introduced


(Introductory Topic +


Topic Shades


+ Topic Changes)


total


number of


minutes


in a


discourse


ability


sample.


a group,


This measure


a dyad,


supplies


or an individual


information about


to sustain a series of


utterances


make


focused


transitions


on one


from one


topic of

topic to


interest,


another.


and also


to successfully


instance,


experimental gro

group mean might


up mean which was


indicate


significantly


a pattern of


higher


discontinuous


than a


discourse


control

for


the experimental


group,


characterized


by frequent shifts


from one


topic


to another.


Conversely,


an experimental


group mean


which was


significantly


lower


than


a control


group mean might


indicate


inability


on the part


of the experimental


group


to develop


new


topics,


to either


linguistic or


cognitive deficits.


Secondly,


proportion


topics


maintained


or matched was








the success of


related


They


a speaker


to adherence


found significant


s introduction


to relevance


differences


a topic


in discourse


requirements


the performance of


.and


conversation.


adults and


children on


this measure.


Thirdly,


longest


sequence of


utterances which


were matched


or maintained


was determined


each


discourse


sample.


This measure


is an


indication of


the ability


to develop a


topic over


a sustained


number


utterances.


An experimental


group mean which was


significantly


lower than a control


group mean might


indicate


limitations


this


ability


the experimental


group,


again


either


cognitive or


lingui


stic defi


cits.


Finally,


context on


a measure was employed


the performance of


to investigate


two groups.


the effects of


proportion of


utterances


contributed


each subject


each


of the two contexts


was


cornputed


dividing


the number


of subject


utterances


by the


total


number


retarded


subject


utterances

s contribute'


in the discourse

e a significantly


sample.

higher


Should


proportion of


utterances


in the Subject:Subject


context


than


Subject:Interviewer


context,


this


might


indicate


that


social


factors


such


as learned


retarded


submissiveness


individual


s ability


or lack


experience


to perform well


in an


influence


interview


situation.


Conversely,


improved


performance


in the


Subject: Interviewer


setting might


suggest


that


the added


structure of


an interview decreases


cognitive


and/or


linguistic demands,


allowing








Transcript


Preparation and


Coding


A transcript


was


prepared


for each discourse sample


Appendix C).


intelligible discourse was


orthographically


transcribed and


divided


into utterances


according


to guidelines


suggested by Brinton and


Fujiki


1984


see


Appendix


Specific


transcript


notation


was


used


to denote


overlap


in speech,


uncertain


transcription,


pauses,


unintelligible


speech,


repetition of


a word or


syllable,


non-speech sounds


such


as laughter,


environmental


noises,


or notes of


clarification


(see


Appendix E).


initial


utterance


in each


transcript


was


identified as an


introductory


topic.


For the


purposes of


this study,


topics


were


identified at a general


level


attempted


to capture


the "question


of immediate


concern"


or the "center(


of attention"


discourse


segment


(Keenan and Schieffelin,


1976).


Three


questions


posed


by Brinton and


Fujiki


1984)


their


attempt


to reliably


identify


topics


proved


helpful.


They were


What are


these


speakers


talking


about?


What


seems


to be the


central


concern


addressed?


What


the focus


or center


of attention of


these


contributions


to discourse?


After


a topic was


identified,


was


then determined


whether


was matched,


maintained,


shaded,


changed,


or reintroduced.


addition,


was


coded


as either


adding


or requesting


information.


When


topic


identification and


topic manipulation


coding


for each


discourse


sample were


completed,


a content


analysis


yielded


see








maintained or matched;


average


number


topics per minute;


proportion of


utterances


contributed


each subject


in each


context.


Reliability


A second examiner was


used


to establish


reliability


of discourse


transcription,


topic


content


labeling,


topic manipulation


coding.


This


examiner was a master


s level,


American-Speech-Language-


Hearing Association certified speech-language pathologist.


To establish


reliability


the discourse


transcription,


discourse


samples were


reviewed by


second


examiner,


who noted any


discrepancies


Agreement


in utterance


between


transcription or utterance


examiners was


boundaries.


percent.


following


procedure was


used


to establish


reliability


topic manipulation


coding.


A transcript


from a pilot


study was


used


to define


jointly reviewed


identify the


this


coding


categories.


transcript during


a two-hour


two examiners


orientation


session.


This was


followed by


two hours of


individual


coding


second


trial


transcript.


A criterion of


percent agreement


three consecutive


five-minute


samples


was


set as


a prerequisite


initiating


coding


of the


study


data.


Twenty percent


of the discourse


was


randomly


selected


to be


independently


coded


second


examiner.


percentage of


agreement


according


to coding


categories


was


as follows:


topic


match, 9


percent;


topic maintenance,


percent;


topic


shade,









identification


topics


resulted


labels such as


"future


plans,


" and


"other classes.


Although


slight


discrepancies


wording occurred


(e.g.,


"past


experience"


vs. "previous


work"),


these


were


considered


significant;


agreement between


examiners on


topic


content


was


percent.


While


agreement


was


high on


topic manipulation


categories,


topic


shading


proved


to be


the most


difficult


to identify.


In most


cases


, disagreement


arose over whether


a topic


had been maintained


shaded.


This


indicative of


the subtle


shift


focus of


topic


obtainable


through


topic


shading.














CHAPTER


RESULTS


present study


compared


topic management


skills of mildly


retarded


sheltered workshop clients


with


those of


nonretarded blue-


collar


job trainees.


proportions of


topic manipulation categories


used by the


retarded and


nonretarded


groups were


analyzed.


Four


additional measures of


topic management


were also used


to compare


performance of


the groups.


Finally,


effects of


context were


taken


into consideration


in analyzing


the proportion


of utterances


contributed by


each group


in the


two conversational


settings.


Topic Manipulation


Categories


In the Subject:Interviewer


discourse


samples,


retarded and


nonretarded groups


performed


similarly


(see Table


3.1).


topic


match and


topic maintenance


categories


accounted


the majority


utterances


for both groups.


Topic


shade,


a means


changing


topics


while


still


providing


cohesion within a


conversation,


accounted


slightly


Topic change


higher proportion of


topic


utterances


reintroduction,


within


categories of


retarded group.


discontinuous


discourse,


were


low frequency


codings.


A multiple discriminant analy-


(P-Stat,


Version


indicated


no significant


differences


between


groups


[Wilks


Lambda


= .58,


F (5,


= .89,


= .543].










Table


3.1.


together
context.


Mean proportions of


Common)


topic manipulation


each group separately,


variables


for groups


Subject: Interviewer


Common


Topic Match
Topic Maintenance
Topic Shade
Topic Change


Retarded


Nonretarded


Topic


Reintroduction


There was


slightly more


variablilty


performance of


groups


Subject:Subject discourse samples


(see Table


. Once


again,


topic match and


the majority


of utterances


topic maintenance


for both groups.


categories


However,


accounted


this context,


both


groups maintained


topics more


frequently


and matched


topics


less


frequently


than when


interacting with


interviewer.


There was a


slight


decrease


topic


shading


the retarded group,


and a slight


increase


topic


change


for both groups.


Because


small


number


of dyads


each


group


only


four of


five


topic


manipulation


categories


could


be included


the multiple discriminant


analysis.


As in


previous


test,


no significant


differences


between


groups were


found


[Wilks


Lambda


= .00930,


F (4,


= 26.62,


= .14].


Table


together
context.


Mean
Comannon)


proportions of


topic manipulation


each group


separately,


variables


Subject


for groups


:Subject


Connon


Retarded


Topic Match .20 .23 .17


__


__


Nonretarded





35


Additional Measures of Topic Manipulation


Table


presents


the means


four


additional measures of


topic manipulation


for groups


together


found


the Subject:Interviewer discourse


for each group separately.


additional


measures were


as follows:


average


number of


topics


per minute,


proportion of


topics maintained or matched,


longest


sequence of


utterances maintained or matched,


proportion of


utterances


contributed by


each group.


Again,


additional measures.


retarded


two groups was


subjects


similar on


these


topics more


frequently


than


nonretarded


subjects.


Both groups maintained or


matched


or nearly all


topics which


they


introduced.


Sequences


utterances maintained


or matched ranged


from


to 53


retarded group and


nonretarded group


of continuous

proportion of


discours

utteranc


I from 2 to

a slightly

e. The re


es


to their


51 for the

higher mean


tarded


nonretarded group.


group contribu


conversations with


longest sequence

ted a greater

the interviewer


than did


nonretarded subjects.


A multiple discriminant analysis


indicated


no significant


differences


between groups


(Wilks


Lambda


.82,


F (2,


= .97,


= .45]


Because


of the small


number


of Subject:Subject


dyads


each


group


these


additional


measures were


included


in the discriminant


analysis of


dyad data.


samples,


the performance of


introduced










Table
groups


3.3.


Means of


together


additional measures of


(Coanon)


Subject: Interviewer


topic manipulation


for each group separately,


context.


Average Number


of TopicsA4inute


Proportion of Topics Mnt/Mch
Longest Sequence of Mnt/Mch


Proportion


of Utterances Contributed


Camnon
1.32
1.00
34.75
.49


Retarded


1.41
1.00
33.83


Nonretarded


1.24
1.00
35.67


Effects of


Context


To determine


the effects of


context,


a two-way analysis of


variance was used


contributed


to compare


by each subject


proportions of


in a)


total


utterances


the Subject: Interviewer


setting,


in b


the Subject:Subject setting.


Table


presents


findings of


this


analysis,


which


revealed


no significant


differences


between groups or


contexts,


no significant


interaction


of group and


context.


The means presented


Table


3.5 further


illustrate


striking


similarity


found


between groups


and between


contexts.


Table


3.4.


ANOVA


each group,


table


for proportion of


utterances


contributed by


context.


Source


F Ratio


Prob.


Group
Context
GxC


__








Table


3.5.


Mean proportion


utterances


contributed


by group,


context.


Total


Retarded
Nonretarded


Total


.495


In summary,


no significant


differences


were


found


between groups


with respect


to the


five


topic manipulation


categories employed.


Both


groups


used


the manipulations


similar proportions


both contexts.


Additionally,


the groups


resembled each


other


in average


number of


topics


introduced per minute,


proportion


of new topics maintained or


matched,


longest


sequence of


utterances


maintained or matched,


proportion


utterances


contributed


each group.


Finally,


analysis


of variance demonstrated


that subjects


in both


groups


contributed a


similar proportion


utterances


whether


engaged


in an


interview with


the investigator


or engaged


informal


conversation


with a


peer.


is necessary


to interpret


these


findings


as preliminary


data on


topic management


include


skills of


larger numbers of


mildly


subjects


are


retarded adults.


needed


Studies which


to confirm the mastery of


this


pragmatic


function


the population sampled.


However,


significant


differences


were


found


between groups on any


of the


measures of


topic management


included


this


investigation.














CHAPTER IV
DISCUSSION


purpose of


present


study was


to provide


information


concerning


the communicative


competence of mildly mentally retarded


adults


examining


their


ability


to manage discourse


topics


conversational


settings.


performance of


clients


in sheltered


workshops was


similar to


performance of


nonretarded subjects


training programs.


These


findings were


in agreement with


recent


studies which support a


competence model


of communicative abilities


retarded persons.


Methods


of Investigation


high


interrater


reliability


obtained


topic


coding


suggests


that


coding


system employed


in this


study


suitable


experimental


purposes


and has


potential


value


as a clinical


tool.


five categories


employed


were adequate


for describing


topic manipulation as


occurs


in discourse.


fact


that


topic


shading


categories


resulted


less


reflects


agreement between


subtle


nature of


examiners


topic


than


the other


shift afforded


by this


more


sophisticated manipulation.


Although


purpose


of this


study was


to describe


compare


the patterns of


topic management


of the


two groups,


this


taxonomy








appears


to have


potential


discriminating differences


individual


style,


as well.


example,


a person who allows


continuity of


a conversation mainly by use of


topic matching may


actually


who provides


contributing


less on a qualitative basis


continuity by use of


topic maintenance,


than a person


as topic


match provides

of deferring t


a minimal


o another


amount

speaker.


of information and

Similarly, a pat


is often a means


tern of maintaining


topic


by repeatedly


requesting


information


rather


than adding


information may,


in same


instances,


suggest submissiveness.


An additional


aspect


of topic management


which


warrants


investigation deals with


the appropriateness of


topic manipulation.


investigator


the manner


is in


Gricean


the process of


conversational


developing


postulates


a set of


(Grice,


rules,


1967),


determining whether the


five


topic manipulation categories employed


the current


taxonomy


are


used


appropriately


or inappropriately


a speaker.


example,


one


rule


regarding


topic maintenance


is the


following:


Topic maintenance


inappropriate


the information


supplied or


requested


unnecessarily


redundant.


following


example


illustrates


a violation


of this


rule.


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


What
best


do you
about


I like
your


Topic Change;


job?


Requesting


Information


like


to work


Topic Maintenance;


outside.


Adding


Information








The mildly retarded


subjects


in this


study


did not demonstrate


errors


such as


the one


above.


However,


clinical


observation by


investigator has


revealed similar


errors made


by patients


presenting


with senile dementia and


head


trauma.


seems


likely


that memory


deficits


account


for such


inappropriate


utterances


in these


populations.


Lower


level


of retarded persons may


also exhibit


this


type of


redundant


response.


Should


inappropriate


topic manipulation


prove


to be characteristic


certain language disordered


populations,


underlying mechanisms


necessary


this


pragmatic


skill may become more


apparent.


ability


to successfully


introduce and


develop


topics


is a


factor which


contributes


to the cohesiveness of


conversation.


Vuchinich


(1977)


enumerates


other


"unit


relationships,


connections


between


two utterances,


which also provide


cohesion


discourse.


These


include


ellipsis,


conjunction,


presupposition,


repetition,


pronomilization,


anaphoric


reference.


Kernan and


Sabsay


(1985


deficient


have demonstrated


providing


referents


that


some mildly


(first


retarded adults


mentions)


choosing


correct


form


(phoric


vs. nonphoric


of referents.


Investigations of


other unit


relationships


also


reveal


differences


in the speech of


mildly retarded


adults.


Discussion of


Subject


Characteristi


Although


the mildly


retarded adults


this


study


are


thought


to be representative of


clients


in sheltered workshops,


many


of whan


are








abilities quite dissimilar to


abilities of


nonretarded


adults.


Caution must


therefore


taken


interpreting


present


data as


representative of


the capabilities


of all mildly mentally


retarded adults.


Additionally,


small


sample


decreases


power


statistical


analysis


determining whether differences


indeed


exist.


Discussion


of Results


Results of


this


analysis


revealed


similar patterns of


topic


manipulation


nonretarded


blue-collar


trainees


and mildly


retarded workshop clients.


five categories of manipulation were


used


the conversations


of both groups.


Continuous


discourse


(topic maintenance


topic match


comprised a high proportion of


total


number


utterances


both settings


(approximately


.90).


Discontinuous discourse


(topic


change


topic


reintroduction)


comprised a much


smaller proportion of


utterances


in both settings,


ranging


in mean


proportions


from


.02 to .08.


While


the findings were


not statistically


significant,


retarded group did


have


a higher


mean proportion


of discontinuous discourse


the Subject:Subject


setting


than did


nonretarded group


(.08


.04,


respectively


Topic


shading,


which appears


later


developmentally


than


the other


categories of manipulation


(Brinton


Fujiki,


1984),


was


present


retarded


sample


in approximately


same


proportion


as in


nonretarded


sample,


with means


ranging


from


.07.


Four


additional


measures


of topic manipulation


again


revealed








minute,


introduced.


either matched


Both groups


or maintained nearly


contributed approximately


topics


one


half


utterances


in this


conversational


setting.


The means


for the


longest


sequence of


continuous


discourse


the retarded and nonretarded


groups were


33.83


35.67


respectively,


indicating


an ability


extensive


participation


successfully


topic development.


subjects


introduce


These


in both


and develop


findings


groups,


new


reflect active


the ability


topics.


While


no significant effects


context were evident


this


study,


empirical


evidence,


as well


as past


research,


suggest


that


context may


an important


factor


communicative cnopetence


Anderson-Levitt


and Platt,


1984;


Bedrosian


and Prutting,


1978;


Bleile,


1984;


Owings and McManus,


1980).


In this


investigation,


both


sessions were


recorded


at the


training


site,


a physical


setting


which


presumably was


an asset


subjects


involved.


Although


investigator played


that


role of


the commnunicative demands of


an interviewer,


the interaction


unlikely


can


be considered


equal


to those of


an interview conducted


to determine


competence


employment,


which


job promotion,


bear more directly


independent


on these


persons


dwelling,


etc.


' lives may


Situations

result in


differences


in performance


attibutable


to context.


Relationship of Findings


to Previous


Research


results of


this


investigation


provide


further


support


competence model


of language


use


retarded


individuals.


Previous








1980;


Owings and McManus,


1980),


use of


"normal"


devices


controlling


conversations


(Bedrosian


Prutting,


1978),


the ability


to signal


carmunicative distress


(Bedrosian


and Prutting,


1978;


Abbeduto and Rosenberg,


1980),


use of


sophisticated


conversational


strategies


interactions with


interviewers,


workers,


supervisors,


others


(Anderson-Levitt,


1983;


Linder,


1978a,


1978b;


Turner


et al.,


1982).


This


study provides


preliminary


evidence of


competent


In contrast


topic management by mildly retarded


to previous


research


adults.


which has demonstrated


importance of


context


in conversational


competence


(Anderson-Levitt


and Platt,


1984;


Bedrosian and


Prutting,


1978;


Bleile,


1984;


Owings


and McManus,


1980


no significant


differences were


found


current


study with


reference


to conversational


partner.


However,


sociolinguistic demands


of independent


living


are


many


varied.


Encounters


with spouses,


supervisors,


landlords,


etc.,


have


their


specific


requirements


conversational


for successful


partners,


speaker


communication.


s goal


In addition


influence


success


an exchange.


example,


a worker may


succeed


persuading


an employer


to give


him a


job,


only


to later


fail


interacting


tactfully with


customers


or cooperatively with


workers.


Thirdly,


physical


setting may play


a part


canpetence.


retarded


client may perform more


capably


an interview conducted


the familiar


surroundings of


a sheltered workshop


as opposed


to the


unfamiliar


surroundings


of a counseling


center.


analysis of


co-


co-








Theoretical


Implications


Investigation of


focus on


pragmatic


the interrelatedness


aspects of


linguistic,


language has


cognitive,


to a


social


factors


in an


individual


communicative competence.


While cognitive


linguistic deficits


have


long


been


recognized as defining


features


of mental


retardation,


social


aspects of


retardation have


received


less attention.


Additionally,


studies


of linguistic


performance have often been


conducted


clinical


settings,


using


standardized


tests of


phonology,


semantics,


and syntax.


Such studies


disregard


actual


sociolinguistic demands placed on an


individual


a dynamic


social


setting.


A recent


been


trend


the analysis


in studying


of discourse


ccmnnunication of


in naturally


retarded persons


occurring


conversations.


line of


investigation


revealed


coannunicative


capabilities,


even


among


severely


retarded persons,


which were


previously


overlooked


(Sabsay,


1975).


appears


that an


individual


s desire


to succeed


in a world


which


verbal


interaction


is of


the utmost


importance


is a strong


motivator


in the


development


conmmnunicative competence.


This


desi

even


may

the


lead

case


to effective,


diminished


entirely


cognitive


"normal"

linguistic


connunication,

functioning.


The development


of certain pragmatic


features of


language


such


turn-taking,


the use of


communicative


functions,


topic management


be strongly


based


social


interaction.








using


larger numbers of


conversational


sampled.


skill


Additionally,


subjects,


attained


is necessary to confirm that


the majority of


it seems advisable


to evaluate


this


population


topic


management


in a


larger number


of contexts,


taking


into consideration


the variety


interlocutors,


communicative goals,


settings which


are encountered


in community


living.


Ethnographic methods such as


those employed by Kernan,


Sabsay,


their


associates


have proved


to be


helpful


to the


researcher who


interested


forming general


impressions


regarding


functioning


a disordered population,


in detecting particular


areas


concern.


disordered


Comparison studies,


populations,


are


needed


employing


both normal


to successful


identify


sociolinguistic

Research c


ranges of


norms


conducted


retardation,


and deviations


with


as well


from


individual


as with


these


norms.


the moderate and


other


severe


language disordered


populations,


would be


helpful


in clarifying


the cognitive,


Soc


ial,


linguistic


factors


involved


topic management and


other


pragmatic

be examine


aspects of

d, and ini


language.


tial


Social


indications ar


factors

e that


are


just beginning


they may


have a potent


effect


on the development


use


of conversational


competence.


Functional


communication


widely


recognized as


a goal


mentally retarded


persons.


Information


concerning


language


used


in context by


this


population


is in


the preliminary stages,


essential


to the development


of appropriate


clinical


goals.


A more








It is


hoped


that


this


study will


serve


to prompt additional


research


area


carmmunicative competence of mildly retarded


adults.


Further


to discover


investigation with


full


range of


larger


conversational


samples will


abilities


necessary


this


population and


to develop clinical


strategies


improving


areas


which may


require


remediation.















APPENDIX A


INFORMED CONSENT


FORM


purpose


of this


study


is to compare


the conversations of


groups of male workers:


those employed


sheltered workshops,


and b)


those employed


competitive


settings.


participants


will


be tape


recorded


in two different


situations.


In one


setting,


you will


talking with


researcher;


she will


you about


your work.


In the


second


setting,


you will


asked


to view


a music


video and


then


talk


about


film with a


friend.


Approximately


Results


of this


an hour


study should


your


tell


time


us more


required.


about


conversational


skills


that are


important


a young person who wants


to be a successful


worker.


There


are


no risks


to those


persons


taking part


in the study.


information gathered


as a part


of this


project


is strictly


confidential.


are


free


to change your mind


and withdraw from


study


time.


It will


affect


your


in any way.


If there


You will


are


be paid


questions,


taking


please


feel


part


free


this


to contact


project.


Beverly


Goldner


at 305-294-6696.








have


read


understand


procedure


described above.


agree


to participate


in the procedure


have


received


a copy


this description.

Signatures:


Subject


Witness/Position


Principal


Investigator















APPENDIX B
ADDITIONAL EXAMPLES OF TOPIC MANIPULATION CATEGORIES

Topic Maintenance


After


a topic was


introduced,


topic was


considered


maintained


utterance which


inrnediately


followed


incorporated


the topic of


preceding utterance


either


added or requested


additional


information.


Example:


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


hate Michael


Jackson.

He's not


one


Jackson


Introductory Topic


Adding


Information


Topic Maintenance;


favorites.


He always
dances th


Adding


Topic
Adding


same.


Information

Maintenance;
Information


believe


Topic Maintenance;


how much money
he earns?


Requesting


Information


he's not


worth


Topic


Maintenance;


Adding


Information









Topic Match


After


a topic was


introduced,


topic was considered matched


the utterance which


immediately


followed


satisfied


one of


these


three conditions:


topic of


utterance matched


preceding utterance


content;


utterance


acknowledged,


agreed


with,


or emphasized


preceding utterance,


thereby passing


the turn


to the other speaker;


utterance


performed


a ritualistic


function,


such as


a greeting


or a courtesy.


A topic coded


as topic


match allowed


continuity


conversation and


either


added


requested a minimal


amount


information.


Example


A match


in content):


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


Florida


have changed


Keys
over


Florida


Keys


Topic
Adding


Change;
Information


years.


Yes,
has


it certainly
changed


Topic
Adding


Match;
Information


through


years.


like


better


before?


Topic Maintenance;


Requesting


Information


like


Keys


better?


Topic Match;


Requesting


Information








Example


Speaker


(Acknowledgement,


Agreement,


Utterance


Topic


or Emphasis):

Manipulation


We don
Friday


t work


Work


schedule


afternoon.


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


see.


Topic Match;
Acknowledgement


It makes


our week-


end a little


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


longer.


Mmhm.


Topic Match;


Agreement


I'm
week


taking
off.


next


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


The whole week!


Topic Match;
Emphasis


Other


frequent


utterances which


belong


to this


category


include


following:


Uh-huh,


Right,


Sure,


Great,


Yea/Yes


when


used as


a direct


response


to a question),


boy,


Okay,


Gee,


What?


guess


Example


Rituals


such


as greetings,


leave-takings,


courtesies


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


You' ve


been a


help with my
project.


Research
project


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


Thank


you.


Topic Match;
Courtesy


Good-bye.


Topic Match;
Leave-taking








Topic Shade


A topic was considered


to be


shaded


utterance met


both of


the following


criteria:


topic


focus


was


not strictly


maintained,


shifted


fran one


utterance


to the


next;


and 2)


Sane


aspect of


the propositional


content


an utterance was derived


from


the preceding


utterance.


An utterance


coded


as a topic


shade may


either


add or


request


information.


Example:


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


You should


feel


s boat


Topic


Reintroduction;


Adding


competent out
the water with
your own boat.


Information


program


has given me a
understanding
engines.


Topic Maintenance;


new


Adding


Information


interested


lobster


Lobster
season


Topic


Shade;


Requesting


Information


season
coning


that
up?


Topic Change


A topic was


considered


changed


an utterance


introduced a


topic


previously


discussed


either


added


or requested


information.


this









Example:


Speaker


Utterance


Manipulation


s gonna


the grad
concert?


show at


Concert


night


Topic Maintenance;


Requesting


Information


Shalimar,


Midnight


Topic Maintenance;


Star
and


Tina Marie,


Adding


Information


Involution.


should


see


Yearbook


Topic Change;


inside of
yearbook.


this


Adding


Information


Topic


Reintroduction


. A topic was considered


to be


reintroduced


an utterance


addressed


a preceding


but not


immediately preceding


topic and


either


added or


requested


information.


Example:


Speaker


Utterance


Topic


Manipulation


Did you have


jobs
that


Past


in the past


were


experience


Topic Shade
Requesting


Information


connected


with marinas?


didn' t.


Topic Maintenance;


Adding


Information


In the future,


would


like


Future
plans


Topic Shade;


Adding


Information


be a charter


boat


captain.


What
have


kinds of
you had


jobs
in


Past


Topic


experience


Reintroduction;


Requesting


Information


past


Topic


9















APPENDIX C
SAMPLE TRANSCRIPT


UTT.


SPKER.


DIALOGUE


TOPIC


MANIPULATION


I've


been


who are


talking


to men


in different


training programs.


Training
Programs


Intro Topic
Add


would


like


to tell me
the Marine


a


for you
bit about


TS;Req


Program


Propulsion


program here.


JC 001


Okay,


the Marine


TMnt;Add


Propulsion program is
a two year program.


JC 002


re trained


TMnt;Add


gasoline engines,


diesel


engines,


outboard engines.


JC 003


Uh,
plet'
very


it's a pretty


e


program,


CCo--


TMnt;Add


and,


interesting.


Mmhm.


TMch;Add


with


what
the


do you hope


training


to do


that


Future
Plans


TS; Req


re getting?


ABBREVIATIONS:


TMnt;

TMch;


= Topic

= Topic


Maintenance


= Add


Match


Information


= Request


Information















APPENDIX D


GUIDELINES


FOR DIVIDING UTTERANCES


Utterances may


consist of major


or minor


sentences.


Major s
and may


sentences
consist


usually h
of simple


ave


a subject-predicate


or multiple


structure,


clauses.


Minor utterances


include stereotypes,


social


phrases,


interjections,


vocatives,


and back


channel


responses.


Back


channel


responses


include


following:


murmurs of


requests


agreement
>r clarification


brief restatement
sentence completion


Repetition


of phrases within a


larger utterance


are considered


as part


of that


utterance


"Yesterday Susie came Susie


came over").


starts


to initiate


are c
i.e.,


considered


as part


of the


ut


"John went-John went home


terance
later"


they


attempt


Incomplete


sentences


the speaker was
utterances.


going


lacking
to say


sufficient


are


information


noted but


to tell


what


counted


Speakers


utterances


occas


ionally


overlap


(i.e.


, two speakers


talking


at the


same


time.)


In this


case


, each speaker


utterance


is counted


as a separate


utterance.








Utterance


boundaries are


considered


to occur


at the end


phonemic clause also marked by


drop
final


pitch


or loudness


across


the entire clause or


syllable(


a final


rise


in pitch,


or question


inflection;


an unfilled


pause;


lengthening of


final


syllable;


the u
know,


ise of


a stereotyped


"ending


expression,


" such as


"you


or "or something"


the completion


of a grammatical


clause with a subject-


predicate combination.


Adapted


from Brinton and Fujiki,


1984)















APPENDIX


TRANSCRIPT NOTATION


overlap


in speech


transcription


uncertain


pause

unintelligible


repetition of


a word


or syllable


notes of
mental n


clarification,


non-speech sounds,


oises


environ-















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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH


Beverly Boling Goldner was


born


in Asheboro,


North


Carolina,


1950.


After graduating


from Myrtle


Beach High School


1969,


attended


Columbia


College,


Columbia,


South Carolina,


where


received


a Bachelor


of Arts degree


speech pathology


in August


1972.


Ms. Goldner


began


her graduate


studies


in speech pathology


University


South


Carolina


in September


1972


and was employed


as a trainee


in the Department of


Veterans Administration


Speech Pathology


Hospital


Columbia.


and Audiology


She earned


Master of


Education


degree


from the


University


of South


Carolina


August


1973.


year,


Ms. Goldner worked


as a speech-language


pathologist at


the West


Virginia School


Deaf


and Blind


Ranney,


providing


services


for deaf,


blind,


and deaf-blind students,


primary through secondary


grades.


She obtained


her Certificate of


Clinical


Competence


from


the American Speech-Language-Hearing


Association


1975.


From 1976


through


1978,


Ms. Goldner was


employed


by the


Board


Education,


Monroe County,


Florida,


providing


services


for school


children


with


communication disorders.


An interest


in the


complex


nature


of language disorders


one









entered


the doctoral


program of


the Speech


Department


University


worked as


Florida


a clinical


1978.


While


supervisor


pursuing


teaching


doctorate,


assistant


in the


department.


She was


awarded her


Doctor


of Philosophy degree


August,


1986.


Currently


she maintains


a full-time


private


practice


Key West,


Florida.








certify


conforms
fully ad


that


to acceptable


equate,


in scop


have


read


this


standards of s
e and quality,


study


that


in my


opinion


;cholarly presentation and
as a dissertation for the


degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


nda J.


Associate


drdino,
fessor


Chairman


Speech


I
conform


certify


that


to acceptable


fully adequate,


in scope


have


read


standards


this


study


that


in my


opinion


of scholarly presentation and


and quality,


degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


as a dissertation


Thamas B. Abbott


Professor of


Speech


certify that


conforms


have


read


this


to acceptable standards of


study


that


in my


opinion


scholarly presentation and


fully adequate,


in scope


and quality,


as a dissertation


for the


degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


1t, cX


U


Kenneth J. \erhardt
Associate Professor


of Speech


certify


conforms
fully ad


that


to acceptable


equate,


have


read


standards


in scope


study


that


in my


opinion


of scholarly presentation and


quality,


as a dissertation


degree of Doctor


of Philosophy.


'c/ew


Patricia H.


Associate


Miller


Professor of Psychology


certify that


conforms
fully ad


to acceptable


equate,


in scop


have


read


this


standards of s
e and quality,


study


that


in my


opinion


scholarly presentation and
as a dissertation for the


degree of Doctor


of Philosophy.


D. Kimbrough Oiler
Assistant Professor of


Speech


dissertation was


submitted


to the Graduate


Faculty


of the


Department of S


peech


the College of


Liberal Arts


Sciences


--- -


LJ/^-4<^


(^X^^-^-'


I 1


__


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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Il ll l lll llllllllt IItII 1111 lil1111 1 11
3 1262 08554 1976