Heaton, Amy Alexandra Helen
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Approximately 80-90% of people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) suffer from speech impairments that result from the general loss of motor control associated with the disease (Letter, Santens, & Van Borsel, 2005). While researchers in the biomedical tradition have studied speech in people with PD in order to characterize the speech deficits and to assess the overall progression of the disease, there is sparse research that examines the social-interactional aspects of how PD affects the communication of individuals with PD and their families (Robertson, 2006). This dissertation examines how one man who has had PD for over 20 years co-constructs meaning in conversations with his family. Using a hybrid of Discourse Analytic and Conversation Analytic methods, this study identifies and describes in detail the strategies that family members use to understand a member who has almost completely lost his ability to make distinct speech sounds. The conclusions of this study have a wide range of implications both for the field of Linguistics and for application in speech therapy. Specifically, this research demonstrates that linguistic competence does not reside within the head of an individual (Goodwin, 2004), but rather within the community of speakers who have a shared history of speaking with one another. Additionally, this study suggests that instead of focusing speech therapy on exercises that attempt to train a degenerating vocal apparatus in a clinical setting, the provision of therapeutic services should focus on training the community of speakers along with the individual with PD as they are embedded within their ordinary social and functional activities.