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Proverbs and formulaic sequences in the language of elderly people with dementia

Lindholm, Camilla and Wray, Alison ORCID: 2011. Proverbs and formulaic sequences in the language of elderly people with dementia. Dementia: The International Journal of Social Research and Practice 10 (3) , pp. 1-21. 10.1177/1471301211413338

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Some types of formulaic (routine and familiar) language seem to remain fairly intact in people with language and memory disturbances, making it a useful tool for both testing language skills and supporting language retention and use. Proverbs can reasonably be considered a subset of formulaic language, and while it is known that the ability to understand proverbs is compromised in dementia, completing them ought to be relatively easy, if proverbs are stored holistically like other kinds of formulaic language. However, this study reports how three people with dementia often struggled to complete proverbs in a game used in a day-care centre to stimulate the memory and language skills. By examining their responses and relating them to the causes of formulaic language patterns, it is argued that these games are not as appropriate a tool for stimulating memory and language skills as might be first thought. Although they do provide a much-needed opportunity for sustained patient-carer interaction that transcends the basic delivery of physical care needs, the games contravene some of the guidelines offered by Orange (2001) regarding the best way to support people with Alzheimer’s Disease in constructive interaction.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Uncontrolled Keywords: Conversation analysis ; Dementia ; Formulaic language ; Idioms ; Language skills ; proverbs
Publisher: Sage
ISSN: 1471-3012
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 13:00

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